The Incomplete Picture

The process is long and arduous. The task seems literally endless. But my pursuit of the completion of this task is undaunted, because I see the value.

Some might say it’s worthless. But I say it’s priceless, because each time I see the end result I am dumbfounded at the difference the effort made.

The task? Scanning all my negatives and slides from my film camera days (which ended in 2006). When I moved from Southern California to Florida in 2006 I dumped most of the prints to save space. But I have thousands of images on film. I’m probably two-thirds of the way through this project started in 2015. And I will probably cry when I finish.

When I started this project, I scanned hundreds of prints on a flatbed scanner. I found each image needing 20-45 minutes of work cleaning up the dust and scratches before I thought the image worth showing. Cleaning the digital image in Photoshop sucked the life out of me. I was about to give up.

Then I located a slide scanner. And it changed my life. I scanned a few images and noticed the immense quality difference. The color popped in a way I never imagined. But even better was how free of dust and scratches the images were. Usually it took about 5 minutes of fine tuning for me to be happy with the image and ready to show. The scanning was slower but the post-processing was literally 500% faster.

I vowed to never scan another print ever again.

When I got to the negatives of some of the images I scanned as prints, I noticed something else. The print was significantly smaller than the full image of the negative. I did the math today…the print is only 88% of the negative frame. Some images it didn’t make much of a difference. But on others it made all the difference in the world—the difference between keeping and throwing out in the Purge of 2006.

Images I couldn’t remember the print of because subjects were trimmed off or feeling like I didn’t get “all of it”…now I was seeing the whole for the first time. And a wide range of emotion filled me in this process. Sadness that I had never seen the whole image. Wonder and awe of seeing the fulness of what I thought I captured sometimes 30 years before.

Italy_Braies_SizeCompare_88arrows_2000px
Inside the red line is the actual scan of the print of the negative. The red line shows how much of the image gets cut off…and usually the extent we ever see of the image. Not only is the print duller in color, but often trims vitally important details of the image. See the difference below.

Italy_Braies_SizeCompare_Neg+Redline_2000px

Italy_Braies_SizeCompare_No4_200px

I could sometimes feel what I was feeling when I took the photo because of it’s deep attachment to what I was going through at the time. But now 20 years later I find this redemptive experience of seeing a fuller picture, and knowing I’ve grown and don’t have to feel what I did then.

The complete picture actually brought about healing for my soul on many instances. And a lot of joy to see the beauty I may have had in mind when capturing the image way back.

But I’ve also felt kind of ripped off. I only saw part of the image for so long. The whole beauty of the image only finally revealed 20 to 30 years later. All these years not knowing everything that was there. I’m pretty mad that something has been withheld from me all these years. I wish I had gotten to see all of it this whole time. I’ve been cheated.

But this is precisely why this process has been so redeeming.

I can’t but help of thinking of a sentence from the Bible that weaves this similar redemptive story. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)” As I reflect on this sentence you’ll see why I don’t feel as ripped off.

As I walk through life I don’t really ever see or hear the full story. I’m well acquainted with my part of the story, but not others’ parts. I see all the things that happen to me but never know all the things that didn’t transpire. There is a spiritual reality going on behind the scenes I rarely clue in on. I’m only ever seeing part of The Great Story going on around me…I only see in a mirror dimly.

One of the realities I clue in on from time to time is that I am deeply loved by God the Father. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:13,17)” He made me, knows me, and thinks of me…all the time.

I have been fully known my whole life by a Father who can’t help but think of me. Admittedly, I often shy away from His love because of my human incapacity to always embrace being loved. His love for me is a constant reality whether I am tuned into it or not.

When I die, the reality of His love for me will become fully known, and fully experienced. The “mirror dimly” earthly experience will be replaced by the “face to face” complete reality. I will see the complete picture…finally.

In the meantime, there is waiting. I don’t like waiting. I don’t like NOT seeing the whole picture. I’m being ripped off!

My life is much more like the scanned print. It will remain duller than the complete “face to face” reality of being in the presence of God. I will not get to see the whole story most of the time. I probably won’t get answers to all the things I have questions about here on earth. But when I see Him face to face, it will be richer, deeper, more complete, more true to life than what I can possibly imagine here. I can’t wait.

The parable of the scanned print teaches me this: waiting is worth it when I know the complete picture will be better than my wildest imagination.

On earth I still get to see some of my redemption stories that bring color and joy to my life. I get little glimpses of The Great Story. I am growing in embracing the Father’s love for me. I am learning that waiting isn’t so bad. I know the complete picture will awesome. It will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, I look for the Father’s brilliance to fill in the the duller scanned print of my life. I try to bring color to others people’s lives. I try to let the love I’ve experienced from the Father shine through me to people around me. We may have to wait, but it doesn’t have be colorless.

Wander on Purpose friends!


The photo is of Lago di Braies in Northern Italy. Taken in 1999, the lake is still one of my favorite places to ever stumble upon while wandering on purpose.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s