Beholding vs. consuming

Consuming a moment.

I tried to consume a moment last week, and save it for later. We were on vacation on the Pacific coast of Washington, in Olympic National Park. It was late morning on a Wednesday, and we wanted to get to a beach for low tide. We hoped to maybe see a starfish. So after sleeping in a little, and eating some bagels and yogurt, we checked out of our little cottage in the town of Forks and drove to Ruby beach.

We parked our rental car and walked toward the bendy path down to the water. We couldn’t see the beach at all from the high bluff.

When we stepped into a clearing on the way down, I was awestruck by our first sighting of Ruby beach; I laughed! It was just a regular Wednesday morning, but we were looking at a magical world. The tide was partway out. Mist was levitating over ice blue water. Giant sea stacks were ascending out of the sand, towering over the mist. Pools and streams of water formed in the low spots as the tide receded. It was so pretty. There was a baby crying next to us, which was the only dose of reality in that magic moment.

Ruby Beach, Forks, Wa

Then there was a subtle shift in my soul from transcendent awe to panic: I thought, “I need to capture it!”  I wanted to soak it in, take it home with me, share it. Do you know this feeling?  I was suddenly trying to consume it. The tension was that I also wanted to enjoy it as a gift, a blessing, a thrill – just for NOW, not for later.

The rest of that morning was so much fun, I almost wish I didn’t have my phone with me. Ruby Beach at low tide is the most sensational playground. We climbed all over the rocks surrounding the sea stacks and found whole walls full of starfish and pools of anemones and hermit crabs. We climbed and got wet and ate snacks and skipped rocks. I took a lot of pictures.

I love looking at those pictures now that we are home. I remember how much better it was in real life, but I really do love the photos. What is the right balance between beholding the moment and consuming the moment for later? (“Smile!… Look this way!… Let’s get all of us in it!…. Hold it up to the camera!… Can you take one of me and Dad?”…and on and on and on.)

Beholding a moment as a gift just for right now.

Yesterday was a bad day. Someone I know died young of cancer. I didn’t feel well. I got very little accomplished at work. I ate a whole sleeve of Ritz crackers while scrolling on my phone.  (Can you relate to this mood?)  The weight of work and relationships and back-to-school preparations were unsettling me as I tried to prepare and manage and maintain and control.

Most of our family is out of town for work or camp, so it was only my 7-yr-old Isaiah and me at home. I sent him upstairs to get ready for bed while I continued working on my laptop in the basement. He called down the stairs, “Mommy, there’s a pretty sunset!”

I felt a tiny flicker of joy as I closed my laptop and went upstairs to see the sunset with Isaiah. Sure enough, most of the sky was nondescript blue gray, but there was a flame of orange dazzling over our neighbor’s shed. I tried to photograph it but failed to capture the color (as always) and put my phone away. We sat on the back steps just feasting on the changing light. My shoulders relaxed and my soul softened. I picked a few tomatoes and Isaiah caught a few lightning bugs. We walked around the block and chatted with Jamie when he called from Atlanta. It all took less than 30 minutes.

That sunset was a gift and a mercy to me from God, and it was just for yesterday. Just to behold. Just to remind me of his transcendence, his provision, his vastness and my smallness. It felt like relief.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

– David, Psalm 27

[My awareness of and thoughts about beholding versus consuming came from a ten minute reflection by Strahan Coleman a year or so ago, linked here.]

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