Wednesday 28 May 2008

Godly insight

On our recent holiday in the Lake District we visited the Abbot Hall Gallery in Kendal. Two paintings in particular caught and held my attention. One was a portrait by Frank Auerbach. This was in his trademark heavy impasto, black and white paint being layered and scraped back until the end result was more like a three dimensional model of a ravaged landscape than a portrait in the traditional sense. It was simply spellbinding and, like the best poetry, conveyed a deeply felt truth about the human condition. The same was true when I sat in front of Tony Bevan's large canvas 'Horizon' (pictured here). This shows two abstract faces seen from unusual angles, the one on the right turned on its side. This is so very far removed from say, a nice neat photo of two people side-by-side; yet Bevan's canvas conveys something of the deeply complex reality which we know is there beneath the surface appearance of our humanity.

It is this same sense of recognition and making sense of the complex and chaotic experiences, feelings and thoughts of one's own life which I discovered through therapy about five years ago. Bevan's picture reminds me of what it is like to be me. And it is this me which I know God sees, and it is this me which God loves, something which I still find hard to take in, let alone accept. Yet it is true. Maybe this is why I have always been drawn to the story of Legion in the gospels. When asked for his name, this poor, tormented soul says "My name is Legion; for we are many." He is honest about the chaos and complexity of his being human. For me the story gives permission for us to be just as honest, indeed it encourages us to be so, if we are to be set free. Jesus says to the man who he has just healed, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.” In my experience the church, like life, is full of Tony Bevan people. At our best we provide for one another a safe space where such Godly insight and honesty lets mercy do its healing work. It is not easy. It is vital that we are accompanied well. But it is possible. And it does happen. As for Legion, "And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed."

The miracle of grace is that Jesus still comes to meet us, calling us lovingly by our name and wanting so desperately to set us free. I know, because this is what he has done and continues to do for me too. So when we look at each other perhaps we might try to see with such godly insight and compassion.

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