I consider my paintings to be a form of visual prayer, and as I quiet myself in my studio, my heart longs for peace at our borders where today there are still hundreds of undocumented migrant children separated from their parents.
I can’t stop thinking about it. Perhaps this is a good thing. I think only the privileged are able to think of justice issues as something which one “deals with” and then “takes a break” from as if justice can be switched on and off like a light switch.
So, my visual prayer today makes visual the prayer I helped write for my church this past weekend. These are the words that could accompany this portrait of our land, a prayer from the borderlands:
PRAYER OF CONFESSION and LAMENT FOR THE NATION
We come to you as your church, a divided and sinful people, asking for your forgiveness for ourselves and our nation.
God, we have not loved our neighbors as much as we love ourselves–as individuals and as a nation. Help us get sober from this.
God, forgive us for our self-interest, for wanting to hold on to what we think we deserve, without thinking much about those who have less.
Forgive us for thinking that we can judge between the worthy and the unworthy. We know that judgement is yours alone, as you have clearly instructed us to care for the vulnerable and voiceless, both near and far, to whatever extent we are able.
Give us compassion, Lord, to have your eyes when looking at our brothers and sisters in society who seem different from us, or who do not behave in ways we deem appropriate. God, help us to remember the forgiveness you show us in all the times we behave in sinful ways. Help us to continually learn from you.
God Forgive us for whatever ways we have reinforced economic policies that create more distance between those among us who have much, and those among us who have little. God, forgive us when we are not generous, knowing that poverty and the fear of it is at the root of so many desperate acts that plague our world.
God, forgive us for whatever ways we allow for the damage of both the natural environment and the environment of our cities, making them less livable. Forgive us for making excuses and telling stories that make it easier not to care for the common good.
God, we lament policies and practices around the world that do not support the health and safety of our neighbors. God, help us to care for clean water, healthy, accessible, and sustainable food, and access to care and medicine so all of us, your children, can nurture the bodies you blessed us with.
God, we lament the divisions within our churches and our nation. We confess the divisions within our own hearts that have distracted us from seeking the right way to live from your words in scripture. God forgive us for caring more about some lives than other lives. Forgive us for our hypocrisy, for our calloused indifference, and for our self-righteousness when we are not rightly advocating for your justice on earth.
God, turn our hearts to follow your plan for showing your heart to the world by caring for the vulnerable and the voiceless, the hungry, the thirsty, those without a social safety net like widows and orphans, caring for prisoners, and welcoming the stranger and the foreigner. God, help us to give grace to others, as you have poured out grace on all of us through the death of your son on the cross.
Thank you, that you promise to us that if we confess our sins, you are faithful and just to remove our sins and make us righteous.
Today I spent a good portion of the day painting. It has been a while since I posted anything on my blog, mainly because if I am honest, I often feel like I am not living up to my potential as an artist. I don’t have the hunger to strive for greater and greater gallery representation, probably because I fear being rejected as much as fearing being too busy from the contractual obligation to create a certain number of pieces every year. I know I need to be a father during this time in my life, a Dad that drives his kids to places so that they can try out different things, and see what life has to offer THEM.
But I do question if by choosing to invest in other people with my time if I am thereby also choosing not to live up to my potential.
That phrase, “live up to your potential” is something of a millstone hanging in my neck. I was raised to think (correctly, I would say) that my gifts and talents are not my own. I get to carry them to serve others… but not at the expense of others. So, when I create lately, I realize that I’m not in my studio as often as I used to be just a few years ago. I notice that I produce less, and to be honest, I do a lot less of pretty much everything because I am tired a lot. I’m getting older, I am starting to see poorly, my body hurting more often, and I feel mentally exhausted and can’t concentrate like I used to
But, I have some great relationships in my life. I love my wife, my kids, and people in my church. I sometimes wonder if living up to my potential isn’t so much about achieving a lot with the gifts and talents I have as much as investing myself in the people I’ve been given.
If that is the case, I can be a happy man.