As a teenager, I came back from church camp and was asked to share my thoughts about my adventure with the congregation. It was, I suspect, a combination of lack of sleep, the emotional high of that type of experience topped off with plain old stage fright, but about all I could do was babble through my choked up tears something about how “God loves us.”
I believed and still believe that my church camp experience of God’s love was real. I also believe that there can be a disconnection between the experience of God’s love and any attempts at talking about it. This can be frustrating. It might be said that all of the words of the Old and New Testaments can be summarized as “God loves you.” Add to this all the words from the Holy Fathers and Mothers of the Church explaining the Bible, and it totals a lot of words!
So, why do we even have or need all of these words? Isn’t it tedious? I’m reminded of the lyrics from the 1990’s pop song “More Than Words”:
More than words is all you have to do to make it real
Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me
‘Cause I’d already know
It is now about forty years since that somewhat embarrassing, emotionally significant moment of me babbling about God’s love, and yet I still in some way am compelled to communicate the same thing. I am still convinced that God loves us. I have used both the icons I have created and the words I have written to try and say this. I still sometimes wonder if it comes across as silly babbling. Am I naïve to think that this message makes headway in making the journey from my mind to the mind of others?
Sometimes, when I think about some of the churches I have illuminated, I am confronted with that disconcerting reality. This reality has been confirmed by one-on-one conversations and encounters. It is the reality that some people are not getting the message I had hoped they would. I have painted these churches with lots of intention and attention. I have painted them with heart and soul. Yet, still, I know that there will be people to whom this work will not speak. Granted, I bring sins and shortcomings to my work and message, but does this explain all of those who reject it or are indifferent to it?
And this is the point. We, those who would hope to share a message of God’s love, are brought to a place of having to confront that we are not in control. Just as I believe in God’s love for us, I also believe that, sometimes, people will not be interested in it. AND it will not be a matter of how we communicate it. If the icons are beautiful and the hymns sublime and the sermons erudite and clear, there STILL may be rejection of the message.
This is a hard lesson for those of us who are compelled to want others to “get it.” The lesson then becomes one for us. It becomes a lesson of relinquishment and letting God handle it! In relinquishment, we can come to that place in which the Prophet David found himself after all of his travails. When David relinquished, he was able to hear the voice of God saying, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Maybe if we, the want-them-to-“get it”-ites, relinquish, we will, like David, hear the same message. After all, doesn’t God love us?
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