The warm sunlight is filtering through the trees, there’s music in the air, and amid the bustle of the servers and the clink of the cutlery there’s a constant hum of lively conversation. I’m not there. I don’t even know where it is, but when I look at the painting of this scene that hangs over our mantle, I can hear it all. I can feel it all, and I love it. I love how the painting reminds me of moments like this one in real life, when I’ve been in seats like these with friends and family around me. I’m glad the artist captured this moment (wherever it was) and held on to it for me with his brush. I’m glad I found the print to hang in my house, to remind me of my own moments like these.
I’m no painter, but I take a lot of my photos for the same reason—to make a happy moment last, to capture it and keep a part of it with me. I know that pictures and paintings can never be the same as the real moment, but I also know that the real moment can never last. The walkers on the path are just passing by. The diners are going to get up and go home eventually, or return to their hotels. The servers are going to clock out and count their tips and see if they have enough for the bills waiting at home (I’ve been a server, I know). The musicians will put their instruments back into their cars, the tables will be wiped down, and the doors will be locked.
That’s the way it is down here. A moment is so short, and so full, it’s hard to fully experience it when it happens. Still, some moments linger in our minds, long after they pass in time. We capture the feeling of those moments as best we can, in pictures and paintings that recall the happiness and leave out the little details like who is paying and who is spilling a drink, and we hang those pictures over the fireplace and smile. But we always long for more. More moments of happiness. More sunshine without the sunsets, more hellos without the goodbyes, more living, more laughter, more—and always more. What we want really is not more moments that slip away as soon as they come, but rather one single moment of real happiness that we can actually hold on to—a moment that lives forever, without the boundaries of time. We want a pure, unending moment, like the picture that never ends. But not like the picture, because we want it to be a living moment, full of all the life and happiness that the picture can only remind us of.
We want this because we were made for it. The happiness of earth is real, but it’s only a taste that always leaves us wanting more, always reminding us (like a picture) that there is more. These moments of happiness are appetisers, not the full feast. We long for more than the world can give us, because we were made for more than the world can give us. We were made for the real thing, the pure, unending moment better than any painting or picture can capture, because it’s not a copy—it’s real, and it doesn’t end.
The poet-king David described this forever-moment in Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Every other happy moment is only a picture of this one. In the presence of God, the reality never fades.