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Life on Automatic Mode

A couple of months ago, I pulled out my old SLR camera, a Nikon FE2, which I had purchased many years ago. It was a good camera. And it has served me well. But when I took out the camera from a long stay in storage, I made a discouraging discovery. Somehow the shutter mechanism had developed a problem. The shutter gets stuck.

Yes, I know. It’s an old camera. It’s the kind that uses a roll of film. (And perhaps young readers may even wonder, “Film? What’s that?”) But it is the camera with which I learned key principles of photography and how to use them—proper framing of the subject, focusing techniques, adjusting lens opening, setting shutter speed, correct lighting, and the like. I gained a fairly adequate knowledge of the “why” of photography, not just the “what.” These I had to learn without the immediate feedback that current digital cameras now afford us. I had to wait until after the roll of film was developed and have prints made. I have to say, though, that I had some pretty good results using my trusty Nikon.

I admit that the digital camera has been convenient, especially for general purpose photography. Almost everything is automatic—the camera has the ability to make all the photographic adjustments for me. But I miss making personal decisions about particular shots, allowing for personal creativity as I apply my knowledge of photography principles. Sometimes the results of photos taken with my digital camera cause me to ponder what it would be like if I was able to personally apply the principles and not let the camera make the choice for me.

I just wonder how much of our life, and Christian walk, may be in “automatic mode” without the proper understanding of why we do what we do as Christians. We may easily receive the theological formulations and religious practices of others. But how much of these do we truly know? Why such teachings, and why such practices? In other words, we may fall into a kind of Christianity that simply mimics what others have passed on to us. We speak and do certain things without a first-level encounter with Christ and his Word, and do not develop a personal understanding of the “why” of our faith and practice. And so we get disoriented when we encounter unfamiliar circumstances. We are lost when we do not have someone else to tell us what to believe or to do.

A prayer for all believers: “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way” (Colossians 1:9–10 NIV).

  —Keith Y. Jainga

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