I knew it before I even pressed the button. My sister and brother-in-law’s new house in Laguna Beach is up on the mountain and you can essentially see 60 miles of coastline on a clear day, from Dana Point to Pales Verdes. You can also see Catalina Island, which is 45 miles away when the conditions are right. But when I got in the first night and saw lights for miles, I tried to capture the moment and it came back to be just a fraction of what I was experiencing.
This phenomenon has happened repeatedly to me on this trip, and I’m sure you have experienced something similar as well. You take a picture of a lion and you think, “Nope, that does not capture the awesomeness of this creature.” The same goes for pictures of the coastline, my niece, the Wildlife Park, and every other experience on this trip. That is because a picture is only a picture. It is nice to have around to recount the memory, but it could never replace actually being in that moment in time.
That is why I believe the Christian faith is so adamant about having your own personal faith experience with the Living God. In Colossians 2, Paul talks about the need for each individual to have this experience. He says, “Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ!” (Colossians 2:11-15 from The Message) That is a huge thought, that we have been resurrected with Christ rather than just being a bystander taking a picture of this foundational event in human history.
James wrote about the need for a new head yesterday rather than simply tweaking what we’ve already got, and I believe this is the point of the words of Paul above. If you focus on anything other than that deep connection with Christ in his death and resurrection then you are missing the point. Whether it’s a church service, reading Scripture, hearing about someone else’s personal experience, or singing songs about God, these are all pictures but not the point.
James often repeats a quote that says, “There are no grandchildren in the kingdom of God.” This means that faith in Christ is not something that can be passed down as a family heirloom. I would also say this quote means that you cannot look at someone else’s pictures from vacation and then say, “I’ve been there too, now!” You have to go and experience for yourself. Christ is inviting you today into a new personal experience with him, so make sure you don’t miss the invitation. And while you’re there, you might as well take a picture (by journaling, telling a friend, etc.) as long as the picture doesn’t replace the experience and you use it to remind yourself where you have been in Christ.