A new palletMarch 18, 2016
“How did Jesus actually die?” asked a small voice from the group of children who had been quizzing me on the old building that surrounded us. I was at the edge of the chancel in a church that betrayed a hotchpotch of generational changes, including the small stations of the cross that this class had come to examine. I looked at the child in question, this was no time for the simple answer, it was time for a story.
“He probably suffocated” I started, knowing that it was the unexpected answer, the accurate answer. “Crucifixion is like that. They would take a wooden beam and place it in the ground, the second wooden beam is the one across the shoulders” I slowly raised one arm then the next. “Arms would have been tied in place and then long thick nails would have been pushed against your wrists, there’s a bone there, they won’t rip like your hands might” Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other groups had stopped to watch, I dropped my arms to swing the hammer, breathed in a huge breath to show the effort of breathing – I was a storyteller and I was painting a masterpiece. By the end of the description the building was quiet, the children downcast, the air thick. How I delighted in then dusting the miracle of Easter… that this wasn’t the end of the story. In a hushed voice I told how we believe this suffering was a battle, and though Jesus died he won the war, he rose again.
The spell broken, the room shook off the trance and returned to it’s activity. I loved my job, I loved being paid to tell these stories, to make the dry words alive, to dream ways of bringing the intangible miracle of a personal relationship with the divine to the youngsters I met. When the position ended I couldn’t imagine not continuing to work in the same field. Countless interviews and some ugly experiences later, with a mission trip under my belt and a wedding ring on my finger it was still unbearable to think I’d never one day return to that place.Could God really leave me like a painter with no canvass?
I remember boldly declaring at the age of 10 that I’d one day write material for Sunday School. I thought I’d probably become a teacher back then, but this declaration was more prophetic than I would have imagined. As a children’s worker I had dipped in my toes composing and editing material, but now so far from that church I believed I was called to serve, so far from the middle England my heart broke for, I was finally fulfilling those words. This time I wouldn’t be the storyteller in the room, for my words were mangled by translation before they reached the ears of the children I encountered. But my artistic nature ended up bursting out in different ways. I learnt to draw in vectors, to sculpt lines into clothing and expressions, to lay down one pallet of intonation and emphasis for another of curve and contour. I continued to write, this time for the inspiration of others, and let my creative imagination pour into games and crafts. It wasn’t the same, it’s not the same.
We always long for the same.
We long for the favourite artists brush, the almost completed painting, the familiar, for the blank canvass is scary. Writing material isn’t being in the room with the faces that hang on your every word, there is no watching the spark ignite in the faceless inspiration. Where I am is serving a bigger picture than I could every have done back then, it’s a truth I grasp tightly. Another comforter I hug into is that only by having the experience of standing where I did then can I serve as I am now. Recreating our memories paintings is not what God has called us to. I firmly believe God equipped us with skills for a purpose, and it’s our aim to find those places we can use the skills to glorify him. God did not promise to fulfil every desire of our hearts, he promised to fill our lonely spaces with his presence, to push us further along the pathway and match our footsteps along the way.
In the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you (exodus 31:6)