Last week, I was given an unusual assignment. A school-wide art project will get underway next week, and we are to draw a picture for a ceramic tile on one of the human rights. The human right assigned to our class is Article #18 – the right to freedom of thought and religion.
I posed the question to my students: “What do you believe in?” and the answers flooded in. “Hockey!” “Santa Claus!” “Friends!” Some students who attend catechism said “Jesus”.
I’m a Christian; a follower of Jesus, and the assignment got me thinking. How would I represent my deepest belief in a picture? Christianity has obviously been so badly represented and the cross has been radically misused in culture that it’s something I realize I don’t readily talk about. And yet, it’s the symbol I kept going back to when I considered what I’d draw on my tile. The story and person behind the symbol give me the deepest hope and meaning that I know.
So it was that I spent a part of this past Friday evening checking out the artwork of Ramone Romero, a Christian living in Japan. My friend Verda shared his art with me a while back and somehow his pictures of Jesus keep opening my heart and reminding me of the truth that we are all inexpressibly valuable and loved by God. I keep one of his pictures in my mind’s eye each day. I wondered whether my ceramic tile could reflect one of his paintings of open hands with hearts on them.
As I looked at his pictures, one of them leapt out at me and struck a deep chord. I found it comforting.
“Called to Shine”
“The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
He gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.”
It is easy for me to forget that God is constantly gathering and building us up. Isn’t it more realistic to take a “glass half empty” view on life? Lately I have resumed the old spiritual discipline of combing through the day before I go to sleep, finding things to be grateful for. No matter how I’m feeling or how successful (or not) I’ve felt about my day, my search never takes long. Most often, it is the small things like someone’s genuine smile or kind word, a thoughtful deed or a woodpecker at my feeder. Or it’s bigger things like the loyal friendship and encouragement of dear friends like Lyle. A particular study night or worship time often comes to mind with the way they lighten the heart and provide guidance and community. Like the stars in the Romero’s picture, the examples are never ending, provided by a loving God who never forgets me.
I think of those hands with hearts extending towards me and towards the entire universe. I confess that lately my heart has been a bit stony and brittle with forgetfulness, but I am comforted that even if I forget, God never forgets me. I’m reminded that the focus of belief is not a “what” but a “who”. Like the Psalm says, God is forever calling my name, binding up the broken bits, gathering us all up, reminding us that we are all infinitely beautiful in His loving hands.