“I will remember the deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 77:11a
Long before the term “selfie” carved out a unique niche in our lexicons, the Japanese used an alternative word that eventually became a part of our personal vocabulary and history. It is called “kinen shashin” (記念写真) and it is roughly translated as “commemorative photograph.” Whenever a group assembles for a particular occasion, someone inevitably calls for a kinen shashin to be taken to commemorate the event. If you browse through our personal photo albums (back in the day when we collected physical photographs), you will discover quite a few of these kinen shashin scattered among other pictures portraying family and friends in various locations and activities.
A few of these kinen shashin are now framed and hang on our walls, or sit on our shelves, reminding us of days gone by and God’s grace in our lives. Such events may include baptisms, church anniversaries, a farewell of a coworker, training events, a church dedication, a wedding, an induction of a pastor, a graduation, conferences, the launching of a new church plant, a special concert or a group reunion. Each kinen shashin speaks volumes about God’s faithfulness throughout a jumble of times and circumstances as we walked through life and our paths crossed with those of many others.
But this is where the nuance of kinen shashin departs from our typical preoccupation with selfies. A selfie is generally photographic evidence that you did something, ate something, went somewhere or were with someone in particular. The focus is centered more on ME and things that are related to ME at the time the picture was taken. That is undoubtedly why the term “selfie” was coined to capture the essence of this particular form of photography. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this approach and we ourselves frequently take selfies. However, if given a choice, I would much rather be included in a kinen shashin, where my face may be lost in the crowd, but something much greater than me is being recorded as part of my ongoing faith journal.
In the days before the invention of cameras and cell phones, the psalmist testified “I will remember the deeds of the Lord.” (Psalm 77:11a) which is how we are prompted to respond when we view some of the kinen shashin from our past that depict various people and ministries. When we take the time to peruse through such photos, they serve to remind us of the many “deeds of the Lord” that have transpired over the years, but may have slipped from our memories. We would do well to fondly remember such people and events with thankfulness, but also with expectation for the things yet to come that we can only see now through eyes of faith. While it is sometimes unwise to linger too long in the past, we should certainly learn from it and apply those lessons to new challenges ahead. Kinen shashin can serve such a purpose as they beckon us to focus on community and God, which a selfie often fails to capture.