...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The images of water, trees, and light are all interwoven throughout scripture. Light is something by which we see, and to be a light that shines before men means that God uses us in such a way that we can be the miraculous mirrors of his glory. We are creatures that reflect the light, and by that light others can see. The image of the tree is present throughout scripture, often referencing the tension between a tree that is good and one that is not good. The Bible Project introduced me to the powerful idea that people are like trees to one another, either life-giving trees of good or death and temptation-bringing trees of bad. We get the choice, just like Adam and Eve, which tree we will eat from. Our choice to live in the light and to allow God’s glory to shine through us can be something that gives life to others. Water, too, in scripture has a dual image—water represents chaos and disorder throughout the Old Testament, but it is also a vital source of life. Jesus brings all three of these images together—he is the Light of the World, the light by which we see all things. He is the Living Water, and when we drink what he offers we will never thirst again. And he is the Tree of Life, the one from whom we eat to gain eternal life, the one who has always been at the center of all things.
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”
Our lives are a continual Exodus, a traversal from where we were, through a wilderness, and toward the land that has been set apart for us. When Joshua made this commitment, I wonder if he thought about the way that such a commitment would have to be renewed again, generation after generation. And now, even after God dwelt among us in flesh, we still have to go through this cyclical promise to God, a dedication that we often break in our creatureliness. We are ever in need of an Exodus, of God’s pillars of cloud and fire to remind us that we are not alone. If we remember him and proclaim what he is doing and has done, then we will serve the Lord.
You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Life under the sun is filled with twists and turns, and sometimes it can feel like it is hard to see the path so that we can take steps forward. The feeling that nothing is certain is pervasive in our current moment. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can rely upon, and that the future isn’t certain.
In Psalm 16, David’s words reveal a clear path upon which we can rely. Not only is there security, safety, and sustenance in God, there is the fullest possible joy and pleasure in his presence. Throughout scripture and in his person, our triune God shows us that we can experience deep refuge in him through our pursuit of community with one another. Our journey in faith wasn’t meant to be a solitary one. The partnership at the commissioning organization of this work demonstrates a convergence of paths, or a conscious choice to walk alongside one another in faith as a prayer, like Moses, for God to establish the work of your hands.
This painting was created as a united work, with its own convergence of many lines that flow throughout each panel to create one path. No part of the path is simple, few lines are perfectly straight, and each is only a part of the larger picture. Each person will see something different in their panel. I encourage you all to be open to the working of the Holy Spirit as you live with your panel. There is no wrong way to interpret art. You simply look and take it in.
I chose complex, deep blues as an anchor for the palette. Blue is in many ways a color we associate with water and with baptism. There is also a consistent image in scripture of God making a path for us through the chaos waters, creating a space where we can pass through on dry ground so that he can lead us into a flourishing promised land. God accompanies us on every step of this journey, just like he did with the Israelites in the wilderness. I’ve also included greens and golds—these colors for me represent the idea of flourishing, generativity, and the treasure of God’s presence. Purple has long been a color reserved for royalty, as it is one of the rarest natural dyes. This precious color symbolizes the beautiful inheritance of Psalm 16:6. Not every color stands out on each panel, and some are more subtle than others. The fullest picture is in the unity of the whole piece, but each part of the path has its own significance and beauty.
This work was conceived around the idea of loving others with tenderness and self sacrifice. The central composition of the painting includes two large swaths coming together. Though it can be interpreted in several ways, I did think a lot about deep expressions of love, particularly Christ's sacrificial love. This sort of love, which we call grace, is the power that enables us to love one another. In the painting, this area of embrace of love stands against darkness and on the other side of it is light. In other words, a sort of transformation happens through it. I was thinking about the dual enfolding of love from our brothers and sisters and then the love of God. With both we are surrounded, engulfed in mercy. The recipient of this commission is an instrument of God's mercy as they love others well.
I read a lot of commentary on Colossians 3:14 and spent time considering the metaphors and images. I love that Paul urges us to 'put on love like a garment.' One commentator called love "the livery (garments) of Christ's Redeemed." I gave shape in the textures a sort of soft sweep, like clothing. We are also, through Christ's love, clothed with the robe of righteousness, another radical act of love.