Several years ago (more than I’d care to say) I was at a National Youth Convention in St. Louis. I was in college, working with a local church as their youth leader, exploring the idea of attending seminary, and wrestling with shadows.
I had been to conventions like this before – local youth conventions filled with workshops and worship, fellowshipping with other young people and card games played in elevators…But this was the first time I had been surrounded by colleagues rather than peers. Professionals and volunteers, working with local churches and outreach ministries, coming together to learn from presenters and from each other how to be better hands and feet of Christ to the young people in their world.
It was weekend of challenge for me; as much as I loved being in such an environment, I was hurting. I had left an abusive relationship behind and was struggling with the shame and the guilt of having failed to hold everything together – feeling like I should have been a better set of hands and feet of Christ in that relationship, that perhaps if I had held it together longer Christ would’ve brought healing and made things right…feeling like my body had been betrayed and my spirit had been crushed…feeling like it was only a matter of time until my fellow youth pastors and colleagues (both at the convention, and at my home-base) found out…dreading what their reaction would be, and wondering if – and how – I could find healing.
It was with these struggles that I made my way to their prayer room (passing David Crowder on the way, incidentally). I can’t say how much time I spent sitting in that room, but gracefully there was a array of art supplies and an invitation to express myself – my feelings, my prayers, grief, my pain, my shame – everything – through color and texture.
I found the need to seek out three colors of construction paper, the same three colors of oil pastels, and space. I sketched without thinking – doing so instinctively without any idea of what I was creating – simply seeking to pour myself out because I was so incredibly empty. When I was finished, I had three small squares of paper with droplets – similar to the picture above. I left them on the altar space. A sacrifice of myself. A response to the sacrifice made for me.
I haven’t seen those pieces since, although I am sure that the event organizers took care to treat all of the prayer-filled artwork and creations with the greatest of spiritual care and consideration. The image, however, has never left me.
All of these years later, I have sketched them out roughly a few times but it never dawned on my to paint them until recently. What you see above is the result of that time and effort. I hope it speaks to your spirit as it continues to speak to mine.
May God bless and keep you. Happy Easter!