Saturday, July 21, 2012

Theological Reflection part 2 - The Artist in Residence

(For part 1, go here.)

He knelt down
among the fragments to search out every shard
collecting them so carefully, yet even so
his hands were wounded further by the work.

And even more as he began to set them alongside each other,
creating again,
building beauty of the sorrow:
a lamp.

To stay involved in this broken creation and the lives of his human children comes with a cost for God.  Whatever suffering and pain he encountered in the “shattering” event, he adds to it in the course of keeping his hands on us and involved in our lives and our sharp-edged brokenness.  No clearer illustration of this is there than the wounds Jesus received in the course of his work to pick up, handle, and refashion the slicing, piercing shards of humanity he encountered in his life.  But the artist God is at work, not to put it all back together the way it was – that can never happen – but to build something new from the pieces.  The lamp image here is specific for me and calls to mind the Tiffany lamps, made with bits of colored glass, and although I didn’t make that explicit in the poem I hope the image does come through.  The phrase set them alongside each other is intended to nudge the reader’s mental imagery in that direction.

That phrase also has resonance for me in the details of the shooting event.  I heard stories of one person in the theatre, who had been wounded, throwing his body over a friend who had also been shot, into order to protect him.  I saw pictures of people holding and comforting others, with blood on one or both of them.  These are shattered fragments, set alongside each other.  This is beauty being created: the beauty of compassion, the beauty of self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

Through which a light would shine
revealing still the colors of the first creation
and the blood stains,
some dried and left in place
some washed away by tears.

I think of the town of Aurora as being like the gazing sphere.  It had a beauty and no doubt a sense of peace and security that was shattered in this event.  In its initial beauty I know that there were people of love and compassion and courage there.  These are the colors of their “first creation.”  In the shattering, some of those colors are actually now more prominent and easier to see – they have been put on display for the world to see as a light shines through them.  I’m thinking here of citizens and first responders who threw themselves into the situation, with all its horror and danger, to try and help.  I’m thinking of the bomb squad people, working still even as I write, the courage and skill that was in them yesterday now on bright display today.  Yet the same light that reveals the beauty of their character also shows us the blood of the victims.  The artist God, I think, intentionally leaves some of that blood dried and left in place to honor sacrifice and suffering by preserving them in memory.  Even the resurrected Jesus, remember, still had his scars.  But much of it is also washed away by the tears of the creator raining down from above as he goes about the work of building something new, something beautiful again.

Shattered goodness can be fashioned again into beauty.  I believe this is always what God is up to and the answer to the question “Where is God in my/our suffering?”  He is now most clearly, and most hidden, walking and kneeling among the people of Aurora, bleeding and weeping as he picks up the people and the pieces, already setting them alongside each other to make something beautiful in time.

Part 3.

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