Learn more about who we are by following our blog, written by our pastor, preacher, and chief evangelist. Engage in the everyday sacred as Abby writes about the deep and ordinary all at once.
This blog is for my sister-in-law Lisa, a great woman of faith, and a woman who records it all!
It is the moment in my life during which I was certain I had arrived into the life I had dreamed of. And I am positive if I were to watch a recorded clip of this moment it would not be half as wonderful as it is in my memory.
At the end of the wedding over which I recently presided, the groom took out his cell phone and snapped a selfie of himself, his bride, and me right before they walked down the aisle. The new norm is to capture every unfolding moment with our cell phones. When my youngest learned how to ride her bike just a few weeks ago, my middle son filmed her pedaling away while I ran beside her (note: it was a small miracle that I actually had my phone). Afterwards, my three kids gathered around me and watched the 10 second clip. And what did we do next? Uploaded it to facebook, of course. Even more telling of the new cultural norm, we texted the clip to my husband in India so he could watch his girl’s determined cycling.
I wonder if this obsession with visually recording every life moment will eventually lose its luster? Or maybe in the future my children will be disappointed when they discover I did not record every moment of their lives with my phone.
My mother was a picture taker back in the 70s. I love to find envelopes of pictures hidden away in my childhood home. The pictures are a window into my very happy childhood. But certainly my mother did not record every adorable moment. Her snap shots are predictable: my grandmothers and me after my dance recital, blowing out the candles on my ten year old birthday cake, 4th grade field day. Pictures were expensive to develop and parents couldn’t live their lives with large cameras dangling from their necks.
But still the memory of my childhood, with or without my mother’s pictures, comes flooding back to me likes stills in an old movie. I am afraid that if I were to come across thousands of pictures of every growing up moment, my childhood would seem less sublime and much more ordinary.
Recently my three children and I met my husband at the airport after his three week trip to India. As we waited for him to walk through the security gate my children were overwhelmed with anticipation. They could not contain their excitement, sure every man slightly taller than 5 feet qualified as their father.
When my husband finally did walk through the gate my three children rushed to him screaming. They threw themselves upon him and would not let go. I have no snap shot. No family selfie. No clip. I did not post it to Facebook or text my mother-in-law with the picture of her grandchildren greeting her baby boy. Instead my children’s greeting will forever remain in my memory and my husband’s and hopefully theirs.
There are no words to describe what it feels like to watch your beloved children greet your beloved husband with such exuberant love. And there is no snapshot, no selfie, no clip that could capture such a moment. Nothing could record the beating of my heart as I watched my children love the man I married. No recording was necessary. It is the moment in my life during which I was certain I had arrived into the life I had dreamed of. And I am positive if I were to watch a recorded clip of this moment it would not be half as wonderful as it is in my memory.
If the disciples had cell phones would we bother following Jesus today? If the stories we have been told about the man from Nazareth were not stories passed through generations and changed by time, but instead forever frozen in a clip, would they carry the same poignancy? If I could watch with one tap Jesus’ healing of the paraplegic, would I be moved to tears or despair?
Some might argue that such clips would substantiate Jesus’ life and ministry, offer proof to doubters. I, on the other hand, am utterly disinterested in proof. I am drawn to Jesus because of the way his life intersects with mine and the mysterious emotions that intersection gives birth to. If what is recorded about Jesus actually happened exactly as said is of little concern to me. I am more moved that the stories of his life have been told, and told, and told, again and again, with the same intensity of emotion, the same strengthening of community, the same blossoming of meaning and purpose. This telling, and its fruits, has fed my faith.
I am certain my grandchildren will rather hear of the June afternoon their parents raced to greet their grandfather after his three week trip. I am certain my telling, years after it happened, will convey with greater depth the power of that moment upon my life, than if I had recorded it with my phone. I am certain that my telling will change, but one truth will remain: it is a moment that will forever shape me.
In the same way, I am certain that many of the stories about Jesus have changed over the years. But I am also certain that these stories remain because something so powerful and beautiful occurred that demand that they be told. The preacher Tex Sample begins every Bible story by saying, “I don’t know if things happened this way or not. But I know this story is true.”
Don’t stop taking pictures. Or even selfies or clips. They are a new and beautiful way to tell the human story. But please do more than use your cell phones. Be present to the moments unfolding before you in such a way that they are lodged in your heart forever. Please share them with the next generation. And remember—truth is more important than accuracy. All of our stories are true.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.