Feb 15 2012

A Life-Changing Decision

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

It was about twenty years ago this time I made a life-changing decision.  That decision was to seriously pursue nature photography as a hobby.  I was at a point in my life where I was stressed out and very close to being burned out as a minister.  I desperately needed an outlet and after briefly considering pottery as an option I settled on learning how to photograph nature.  I realize that choosing a hobby probably doesn’t sound like a life-changing decision to a lot of people but it certainly was for me.

Making nature photography an avocation helped me to manage better the stress that is inherent in pastoral ministry.  I really don’t know if I would have been able to continue had I not done so.  Eventually photography would become an extension of my ministry, but that is another story.  When I get a chance to talk to young ministers today I always make it a point to encourage them to make sure to find a good hobby.

The decision to pursue photography also opened the door to a whole new realm of friends.  Many of my dearest friends today are photographers.  My life has been tremendously enriched through getting to know Rob Sheppard, Bill Fortney, Ken Jenkins, Pat O’Hara, Stan Burman and many others.  I actually have more photography friends than I do friends that are pastors.

Even though I loved nature prior to taking up photography I know that I would not have had the many incredible experiences in God’s Creation that I have had were it not  for that choice I made twenty years ago.  To pursue nature photography meant I needed to expose myself to more of nature.  This led to lots of travel and exploration.  A couple of nights ago I had trouble going to sleep so I began reflecting on some of the highlights from my past twenty years of photography.  Before I fell asleep I came to the conclusion that I have to be one of the most blessed persons on earth.  The variety and awesomeness of the places and things I have seen while photographing is almost unbelievable!

Finally, the decision to pursue nature photography has helped me to see the world in a whole new light.  It’s hard to explain but when photography is an important part of your life you just see things differently.  You see more and this is perhaps what has been the most life-changing thing of all.  It’s also the best thing because in the process I have come to see God more clearly in the world around me and this has drawn me much closer to Him. 

Twenty years after the fact I cannot imagine what my life would be like today had I not made the decision I did.  At the time I thought I was just choosing a way to help me deal with stress.  Upon reflection it is obvious that there was a lot more going on than that.  I’m convinced that God was at work in that decision and that He had a plan for my life I knew nothing about.  Today I simply want to share with you my gratitude for that plan and for the God who made it possible.

–Chuck

(I’ve included today some samples of my early photography.  The top two images were made in the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area.  The bottom image was taken in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.)