I enjoy photography. That probably doesn't come as a surprise to some people, but to others it may be something new. Photography is a lot of fun and it gives me a lot of pleasure. However, it sometimes persuades me to do things that I may not otherwise do - like wake up at 4 in the morning and drive 45 minutes to take pictures of a harbor that is filled with a few fishing boats and a lot of fog.
Such was the case a few weeks ago. With a break from my seminary studies in Michigan, I spent a few days in a place I like to refer to as heaven on earth. For most sane people, this needs no further explanation. But for those of you who haven't experienced the bliss of this wonderful region, let me spell it out for you: It's called New England.
I drove out to New England for the week to drop my belongings (including my wife) off, and to enjoy a little time with friends and family. As the week neared its end, we found ourselves in wonderful Maine. It was here that I experienced the aforementioned 4 am wake-up. I decided I would explore the ceaseless coastline of this state (it apparently has more coastline than any other state in the contiguous US), camera in hand.
My travels brought me to picturesque Five Islands, a very small fishing village about 15 miles south of Bath. The road there was almost as delightful as the destination. I passed by wonderful inlet scenes, complete with dories and schooners, alike.
When I arrived in Five Islands, there was not a soul around and the fog was thickly hanging over the harbor. For most people, fog is a nuisance; for the photographer, it's heavenly. The mood that it produces is unmatched.
Seconds after I arrived there - the sky still dark from the lingering night - I set up my tripod and started snapping away. To be honest with you, I was kind of surprised that no one was around. After all, this was a working and active harbor and, although it was about five in the morning, I expected there to be fishermen preparing their boats for the day's events.
And then, after a few minutes of my uninterrupted shooting, an older gentleman showed up. He arrived in his old truck, parked it and then started moseying around the docks. Initially, I attempted to stay away from him. Although I am a fairly outgoing person, I am not one to normally approach people and strike up a conversation with them. But then, after trying to avoid having our paths meet for a few minutes, I could avoid it no longer.
So I said hi, to which he responded in the like, and I felt compelled to ask him a few more questions. You know, the usual, "How's it going?" "Are you going out on your boat today?" type stuff. Within seconds we had started a full-fledged conversation, complete with his delightful "Down East" accent (for those who are not from New England, "Down East" is the much-publicized region along the Northern coast of Maine).
I don't know why I avoided talking to him for so long. People like him are so interesting to talk with. They are full of stories and life experiences, eager to share a bit of wisdom they may have attained through the years.
He told me that he was a lobster man and that he went out when he wanted to since he was semi-retired. He had a partner that he was waiting for, and they were going to decide if they would go out for the day. When he asked me if I was a professional photographer, I told him that I was a pastor and he actually seemed intrigued by that.
I asked if I could take a picture of him, and he replied, "Oh, no. That's all right. I don't need a picture taken of me." Disappointed, I asked him if there were a lot of photographers that came by and he said, "Oh, yes. It's terrible. They're always coming around, walking all over the place, getting right into your boats and being real rude." Needless to say, I didn't want to be one of "them."
But then he said something rather amusing; ironic, almost. I suppose it's nothing all that profound or original. I believe it's a part of the famed Down East humor that is common among people of his pedigree. I asked him the simple question, "Have you lived here your whole life?" and without missing a beat he responded, "Not yet."
At this point, how does he know if he will live his whole life in Five Islands? That type of witty and ironic humor is typical for Down Easters, but it was pleasant to experience it firsthand.
But, you know, I got to thinking a little more. How many of us are "Not yet" Christians? No, we haven't yet lived our whole lives on planet earth, but we fully expect to. We assume that we'll live our three score and ten, take a brief nap, and then wake up when Jesus returns again. And when that three score and ten is over, we'll be able to turn the "Not yet" into a simple, "Yup."
What if we looked beyond the "not yet," though, and believed that the "not yet" wasn't necessarily inevitable. What if we really believed that God would return before our "not yet" was over. What if we really acted like we wanted Him to come before we experienced marriage, parenthood, retirement, or our deathbed longings for heaven. What if we stopped paying lip-service to the idea that we want Him to come soon. What if we actually did respond to Him whole-heartedly. What a difference it could make. And then we could go to be with God for a thousand years, and Christ could make this earth anew.
And then it could all look like New England.
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22:20).