This year I have joined 52 Frames as a way to both stretch my photography, but also to further my own discipline to see differently. As soon as the New Year turned I found myself reading and writing for an essay, and I was completely inspired by Zoë Bennett’s Using the Bible in Practical Theology within which she drew out John Ruskin’s wisdom from his own writings. I was particularly struck by the following:
“The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, and religion, all in one.”John Ruskin
Ruskin speaks into my own passion for seeing differently, and drawing attention to what I find…God at work in our world. At the moment that may feel a little more difficult to glimpse – it felt like the darkness of January closed in quickly with the announcement of national lockdown in Britain…but I do believe God is at work in each of us. I have dedicated a page in my journal to ‘Glimpses of God’ and add different situations or words from others which have encouraged me to lift my eyes up to the hills; it has really helped!
Photography though, contemplative or otherwise, is not just a discipline which encourages a different seeing of the world. The first challenge of the year posed by 52 Frames was a self-portrait. My first question in response to this was ‘Who am I?’ These difficult times seem to have enabled me to lose sight of my sense of self slightly in the groundhog day of lockdown. It was really restorative to spend time reminding myself of who I am, who God has created me to be, and what gifts God has given me as I pondered on crafting a self-portrait, which included some of those aspect of my identity that are important.
Extra credit on the challenge was given for using light, but those close to me who I consulted said they just didn’t see me in it….
This process was a reminder of how easily we can get distracted!
The gospel passage for this week in the Church of England lectionary is John 1:43-end, where Jesus asks Philip to follow him. Philip, in turn, invited Nathanael to come and see Jesus. Jesus recognised Nathanael as ‘an Israelite in whom there is no deceit’ (John 1:47b). I love the obvious surprise of Nathanael when he is recognised by Jesus when he asks “Where did you come to know me?” It is that recognising that confirms to Nathanael exactly who Jesus is. This passage makes me wonder how often we really see one another. There are so many distractions in life, I know I can be preoccupied with what is on my to do list rather than being totally present in the sacrament of this moment…a sacrament because God is here with us, working through those around us, if only we have eyes to see. When I am disciplined enough to focus on this God-given moment, that is when I truly see the person in front of me through God’s eyes – and I am truly blessed by that.
In these challenging times, I encourage you to slow down, to pray that God would allow you to see those around you through God’s eyes, and to be blessed by encountering God through them, and that you would come to know God better through them. Amen.