“Incarnation” 8×10, oil on canvas, $112 Buy Now SOLD
I had a great time at Teche Fest in Breaux Bridge this weekend– sold some paintings, made a lot of new contacts. I was forced to talk a little about my art, as in out loud. It was awkward at first because paintings, all visual art I suppose, starts in this vague abstract place and then becomes tangible. The transition is difficult to describe.
What I like about this painting is that it happened on top of an old painting– one I had scraped away but whose texture and feel still remained. I’d tossed the canvas to the side, but when it came time to depict this story, I knew it was the perfect surface. At first, I had no idea what to paint, and, when you read what follows, you’ll see why. I wasn’t about to paint the Lincoln Memorial. Instead I chose this image which is all about God becoming flesh, the abstract becoming tangible. The story comes from a dear friend who is choosing to remain anonymous.
My Pivotal Moment
I was in a professional career in which I had supervision over about 40+ people and was responsible for bringing in and maintaining millions of dollars of business. I had staff in four offices around the state and frequently traveled. Business was good. Family was good. Long marriage, three kids in high school and college, doing well. I had a group of friends who were loyal and whom I loved to bits. I had all the outward signs of success, and, I suppose, people would have looked at me and thought I had it all. I don’t know how to express the genuine discontent that rolled around inside of me. There was just something missing. The trials and tribulations of a busy life found a target in me and left me feeling empty and used up…often vaguely angry. Anyway, I was sick of myself, to tell you the truth. I knew I needed something and didn’t know what that something was. I bought books on leadership, motherhood, marriage…. blah, blah, blah. How to make this life work? How to find happiness? How to confront the battles of each day and come out with a sense of peace? I simply could not find the answer.
One day, I got an email from a friend/acquaintance. She had sent it to about 20 people. It announced a new women-only prayer group that was being held in someone’s home. I didn’t know the someone whose home it was in, but, strangely, she lived in my neighborhood. She was starting a morning and evening group. In the email, she offered to sign up anyone who was interested. Seriously, if I had had to fill out a form or send in a check, I would not have done it. It would have remained one of those things that I think about but never follow up on. Well, I replied to her, “I’m in.” Details followed announcing the first of 12 meetings, to be held on Thursday nights. One of my friends decided to go as well.
The night of the first meeting, I “forgot” and was at my sink doing dinner dishes when my friend called and said in a harried voice…”I’m standing out side of this house and your car is nowhere! Did you forget??” Of course, I did. I hurried over there and was my standard 5-8 minutes late. The meeting had started, and I heard the lady explaining the process for the 12 week series. I’m not sure what I thought would happen, but I never considered that there would be homework (!). I guess I just thought we would get a Jesus-pill and my discontent would disappear. I’m sure I hardly gave it any thought at all. Such was my life at the time. No time.
Process: Each week we had a virtue to learn about/pray about. Each day there is a bible reading that somehow correlated to this virtue. We were to: 1. Get settled in a quiet place. 2. Put ourselves in the presence of God. 3. Read the reading. 4. Let the words of it settle and see what thoughts ‘bubbled up’. 5. Journal about the experience.
My day was so busy that, in order to do this, I had to set my alarm for 5am. Being the good A+ girl I was, I had to do this ‘homework’ and even made a little cheat sheet so that I got the 5 things correct and in order. (Are you laughing yet?) I was trying not to judge this process, just kind of blindly do it. Who knew? Anyway, I had a little trouble with #2. How, exactly, does one do that? I really didn’t know. So, in my spiritual infancy, I imagined myself going up the steps of something that looked (amazingly) like the Lincoln Memorial in DC. I am going up the steps carefully, approaching what I am imagining to be God. When I get to the top, there is a large stone statue of a man up there. I assume what I can only describe as a Muslim prayer position. Think child’s pose in yoga. And, in that pose, in that place, in front of a statue, I begin a very rusty and clumsy introduction to my Creator.
The first week we prayed the virtue of Faith. I did my homework each morning in the process described above. The second week we prayed the virtue of Hope. Rinse and Repeat.
Ahhhh….. the third week, we pray on the virtue of Love. Associated bible readings – which incidentally, I do not recall hearing beforehand – introduce me to the love of God for me. Seriously, how can I be so genuinely loved amid all the business of God’s day. You know, with wars, and cancer and typhoons, and on and on… how can I be known so intimately? I just didn’t understand that. I, having been a good practicing Catholic for my whole life, NEVER knew of the love of God for me. NEVER.
One of the days, when I am practicing the #2 of my process, (clearly outlined on my cheat sheet and sitting next to me!), I realize that I am, in fact, no longer in the prayer pose in front of a stone state inside of a stone building. I am actually standing inside of the arms of Jesus. (I had actually never really pictured him before as a man.) We are standing hip to hip and his arm is around my shoulders. I am laughing and looking up into his face. He is smiling down at me…real…flesh and blood…and looking at me like I am so very, very precious. Like I hung the moon for him. I was introduced to the very real presence of God and, truly, it has changed everything. I have found that the discontent that was so much a part of me does not find a lasting home when it visits. Everything has changed. My marriage. My career. My friendships. My heart. My sense of peace. Everything.
That moment, which was a complete gift and unscripted by me, was, in every sense of the word, pivotal.