A picture perfect day on the island of Malta. My friend Dan and I headed to the town of Marsaxlokk to rent motor scooters so we could see more of the island. When we got to the garage to rent I was suddenly distracted by something colorful. The boats. The boats! I had to investigate.
I easily could have spent half the day there. Little did I know that this town is famous for it’s large number of these luzzu boats in it’s harbor. I stumbled onto a gold mine.
These boats are a long-standing traditional boat in Malta, known for being sturdy and steady. Most are painted bright colors and all have a pair of eyes on the bow. The eyes are referred to as the Eye of Horus and supposedly protect the fisherman while out to see. The design and aesthetic are a mixture of Italian, Maltese, and Phoenician. They are breathtakingly beautiful.
I took a number of photos from a number of angles. But one image truly stood out in my mind. And like all the images in the film camera era, I had to wait a week to see it. I loved what turned out.
Over the past two years I have been in a long process of scanning in my slides and negatives. I’ve scanned near 2,500 images. It is no quick endeavor. The negative for this image has been separated out from the majority because it was one that I made prints from on several occasions. It was among the first negatives that I scanned in. And each time I have tried, I cannot get anywhere close to the original color. I’ve scanned it three separate times hoping to get a better scan, better color, better quality than the last time.
I have to acknowledge it’s a lost cause. I think the negative has faded somehow. Even though in a protected and cool space, the quality of the film has diminished. It is truly sad. It is like losing something extremely precious. I’ve never been back to Malta. Even if I did, that line of boats will likely not be the same. The time of day, the reflection in the water, the colors…hard to repeat all that. It saddens my heart each time I see the image.
Losing a photograph is not like the acute feeling of losing a friend or a loved one passing away. But there is still a pain because there is no recovering it.
A few years ago I thought I lost a friend because of a marital infidelity. He wouldn’t return calls or emails. I felt like he was running away from everything including people who loved him. The days and weeks painfully passed and I found myself angry and sad frequently. I cried at times. I talked about it a lot with my counselor. That helped…some. But this is one of my best friends, why the hell couldn’t he tell me before all the #&!@* hit the fan. Anger again. Emotionally, I bounced all over the place. For. Months.
I felt like I lost something precious.
There is no recovering when someone just runs away and never comes back.
At some point though, my friend did respond back. We connected for breakfast on New Years Eve, some eight months after it all blew up. He had lost almost everything. Somehow in the middle of it he realized he lost the things that mattered most and cried out to God.
Now, I am a firm believer that when we are at our wits end and humbly admit we can’t do this on our own, that God does listen and respond. I’m not a big believer in making deals with God. God makes clear that He is close when we are hurting the most: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) So, when we are crushed and hurting God does rescue. He may not eliminate all the consequences of bad decisions, but He will be with us as we pick up the pieces.
I listened as my friend told me his “at wits end” story and how he wanted to just get back to a place of enjoying his relationship with God. It’s been almost two years since that conversation. He’s had some ups and downs. One of the consequences of his bad choices was having to move further away, so it’s not very easy to connect. But we get to hang out from time to time. He is doing pretty good at walking the steps to recovery through the help of Celebrate Recovery and a support group. I feel like my friend is back.
By God’s grace there has been recovery of this friendship.
It is not always true. Sometimes that friend walks away never to return. Sometimes they do lose everything. Sometimes that sting of losing a friend never goes away. But sometimes redemption happens when we least expect it.
God redeems things all the time in my life. Stories and events in my life that caused sadness or hurt, God seems to help me process those scenarios and something good comes out of it. The depression and anxiety I felt for two and a half years, God has redeemed by giving me the capacity to listen and care for others in depression. I love how God turns what we consider bad into something good. But I’ve still had consequences to walk through at times. But I love my redeeming Father.
This photo of luzzu…well, I’m not sure I’ll ever get that back. In the sadness of that loss I can still choose to remember the beauty of the day I saw those boats. What an invigorating period of minutes to capture a few amazing images. I may never see that image in it’s full glory again, but there are things far greater that I’ve seen God repair. A lost friendship that has been restored is far more precious than any of these images I’ve ever taken.