This meditation and art prompt was written by Claudia Mair Burney on Facebook as part of a daily Advent series. My visual response is at the end.
Wednesday, the first week of Advent
“Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son,
and you are to name Him Jesus, for he will save people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21, NRSV.
Yesterday a beautiful soul bought to my attention the difficulty she was experiencing doing yesterday's practice. She and her husband have been trying to conceive and having difficulty, and she was at a loss when trying to create a self-portrait of herself as pregnant with Christ.
I apologized for causing pain, told her what applies to you all--skip what you don't want to do-- then promptly suggested she paint that very same heartache.
No, I do not enjoy torturing people. I have simply found healing for so many hard things by painting them. The spiritual life is not all cuddly joy. A cursory reading of the Bible proves that. If we are to experience the whole of the Advent story through the expressive arts some courage is necessary. For in this story are the terribly human tendencies we all have, even the most devout of us.
Take Joseph for instance. He was obviously a compassionate and deeply devout man with every instinct to protect Mary from public shame, and possibly a stoning. But even with his remarkable qualities, he could not see what God had done. Most of us would have reacted the exact same way. We do so daily in some way or another. The holy and sublime breaks through our ordinary existence, and we fail to see the gift we’ve been given. But all is not lost. God, in His great love for Joseph, simply found another way to reach him.
Today we are going to focus on the doubt--an utterly reasonable doubt--that Joseph experienced. I encourage you today to be counter intuitive and use supplies that you are not drawn to. Paint, draw, collage, write--whatever you choose--what keeps you from seeing the miracle unfolding before you.
How often do I fail to understand what you are doing, but you are always sending me help, and even deliverance from my sins. Do not give up on me, good Father, when I am too practical to see the miracles right in front of me. You know how to get my attention. Quiet my soul, Abba, so that I may hear from you, and see the magnificent gifts you have placed in my life. Help me to receive them, be obedient, and always cry out from the depths of my soul,
“Come, Lord Jesus.”
"Shadows" :: #2 Pencil on brown wrapping paper
My response: It's a brutally raw self-portrait. I wasn't feeling outwardly tearful at all but that's what I drew and as soon as I posted it publicly, I began to second guess. How much did any of the players in this story, even Jesus, second guess? Why does divinity hide in the shadows? Why do we not see the angel so clearly in dreams that we are convinced and change our mind?