I didn’t know why certain areas were blacked out – were there shadows or black posts – I could never be certain. Why did so much of it have a yellowy-mustardy tint to it, when the largest lights were white? Why did the “East Van” sign seem to know its exact boundaries and just stay there. All these things and more I didn’t understand when I was painting. I had to paint in faith – faith that the final product would turn out somewhat like how I had seen and imagined it.
As I reflect on my spiritual life and this season of Advent, I often feel the same. I don’t understand as much as I want to. Over the years, I have become less and less convinced of my ability to understand and live-out the Christian faith. Things that used to seem black and white now often seem gray. Not everything is so neat and tidy and easy to understand or translate. I sometimes miss the certainty I used to have - it seemed safe; it had these nice boundaries that let me know where I stood in the world and before God.
Now I have to deal with the things I don’t understand and that don’t fit in a nice boundaried system. But in the midst of what can often feel like chaos I still believe Jesus is at the centre somehow – that He is in control of my life and this universe.
Grace has stopped being just a concept and has become an experience and extension of Jesus’s love and care for me personally. And this grace has made me more okay with the things that fall into the gray - because I often fall into the gray.
Like many of you, I am often grieved by this broken and unfair world we live in. From natural disasters and human trafficking to racism and friends who long for spouses or children; sometimes things can seem very bleak. But in this season, the darkness cannot have the last word for unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. He is not God far off, but Immanuel, God with us – who took on our flesh and our concerns who died an unfair and ugly death. Who came to mend this broken world. Who came to bring peace and equity (see Mary’s Song).
The cross of “East Van” reminds us that there is hope even amidst the darkness. Hope in His incarnation. Hope in His life that showed us what it is to truly love and live and be human. Hope in His death and resurrection. Hope that He is holding us even when it feels like we are surrounded by darkness.