Located on the grounds of Second Baptist Church of Memphis, TN is a Labrynth, a prayer garden as such. Inside of the Labrynth, on the left side, is a bronze red tailed hawk on a cross. It, along with the Labrynth, is dedicated to Spence and Becky Wilson. Their gifts of love and support for not only Second Baptist Church but also for the community which is Memphis, Tennessee and out into the world, is a reminder of their dedication to the one who died on the cross.
The clay pot is sealed and buried in the middle of the beaten down clay dirt floor. It is all they have. There is no bank to invest it in. There is no portfolio, no 401K. It is all they have and they pray they will not need it anytime soon. But they know if they need it, they can access it, digging it up, and breaking the clay pot that it resides in.
I am not sure if anyone has ever done a “gospel according to the clay pot that houses the family treasure.” What would it say if it could talk? Perhaps it would say, “My greatest purpose is not yet realized! I will have to be busted and broken for you to get at what I am holding!” Maybe it would echo, “I am made by the hands of a great potter, as are you, and my purpose will never be realized until I am broken, just like you.” But there is that inference right there in the holy writ. Paul talked about it as he dealt with his own brokeness. It was as if he understood that to be fully human and fully purposeful is realized only when we are broken.
It is a novel concept, isn’t it? In a society of hunks and hormones, of strength and stamina, we are given the illustration by Paul that we are a pot, formed by a great potter,and that found inside of us is a treasure, which is released and given by only being broken. Unexpected illness, unexplained death, hopes destroyed, grieving, heart-wrenching, cancer filled; broken!
It is T-minus 11 days and I pray I have done this special art piece the justice it deserves. It will be surrounded at the time of it’s presentation by hundreds of art pieces that have been completed by artists whose health was in no way compromised and they were able to spend months and years on some of them, concentrating with no distractions, each stroke of the hand having nothing in the way but his or her own imagination. I will be compared to each of them accordingly with so few having a faint clue to the person behind the creation of this flying wood duck that I have called, “Beaver Pond Woody”.
I have yet to know why in the world I chose to do of all ducks, a flying one and on top of that, the most colorful of all ducks, all complicated with the fact that the artist doing this piece is “all broke up.” My day begins by placing my brain in gear for the pain that will momentarily run throughout my body. Bed is my good friend and enemy, all wrapped up in one. I start by massaging my hands, rubbing my neck, massaging my back, trying to get up enough strength to stand, grabbing door facings, an ironing board, anything that will help me to start. Each breath and every heartbeat shoots a signal to my brain that I am not at my best because I am broken.
I think of the work that lies before me for this day. I think of my children where each day brings their own set of stressors and I think about the person God has given me to walk with, in the midst of it all and I pray. For all that I don’t understand and all that awaits and the reasoning beyond my own understanding of pain and suffering, I stop and pray for one thing: that the treasure that is found inside of this broken pot will be of value to the brokenness of our own world.
The opening narrows over time. The interest slowly comes to an end. The emails, phone calls, and notes, all slowly dry up. People live busy lives. And nothing in our busy life changes accept the resolve that what is, is. There is no late night commercial that shows pictures of us. And maybe if you ever saw us, you would say,” gosh, how very good you look!” And we don’t complain because all the complaining that we can muster is of no use. And in the darkness, in the midst of the storm that never ends, it is there, if for no other reason than because, it’s who we are; we are a hoping people! At the end of all of us, whether your condition is chronic with pain, or not, nothing defines our real worth accept for one thing; our hope.
I love my shop! I go out and create in it, hoping to make something even more beautiful than the last object of my affection. But it is not the same now. It is an illusion of what was. Very little of my creative self works as it should or did and many days I walk out of that shop feeling more frustrated and in pain than creative and fulfilled. My neck pops and grabs. My hands freeze up and require me to stop and massage them. My back and legs begin to ache and I stand and walk around, often interrupting a creative thought or moment. Even yesterday, my anniversary day, I underwent more tests to see why all of my pain has no reoccurred. And yet, as they say, it is what it is! And to accept this as such is not in my DNA! I push every envelope possible! Ask Karen Castle Smith!
I challenge the boundaries of what is, all the way and up to, what can be! And if I am not careful, this mantra of my existence can be the anchor of my future. And only when the pain comes searing through the parts that are creative, do I stop and process it all and realize this one fact; my ability to create is not the anchor of my being. The anchor of my being is on one simple truth: It ain’t over til it’s over! Our foundation, our anchor is found not on one of any of the above qualifiers to our personhood. Our anchor is found only on that which we didn’t have a bit to do with. Our anchor is found on the very essence of our faith; a belief and hope that our life here is not all there is! And I have to remind myself of this as my body continues to do whatever it is that it is going to do.
For centuries, anchors have been a symbol of hope. This emblem was especially significant to the early persecuted church. Many etchings of anchors were discovered in the catacombs of Rome, where Christians held their meetings in hiding. Threatened with death because of their faith, Christians used the anchor as a disguised cross and as a marker to guide the way to their secret meetings.
My ability to carve may become diminished. I may have to change the way I do what I love and that may stop altogether. Churches and Institutions have misunderstood the physical dynamic that has come to define too much of my existence and have judged me accordingly. And incorrectly may I add! But my anchor and hope is not on my stuff, my abilities, my inabilities, my gifts, nor my talents. My anchor is found in the hope of a new day that will dawn because of my faith.
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