This summer, Kyle and I spent a few hours at the Phoenix Art Museum. We both love and appreciate art and had a jolly ol’ time walking around the exhibits, particularly the contemporary and modern exhibits…because goodness knows we love things that don’t follow rules.
Though I enjoyed almost every work, my eye was drawn to an intriguing “something” in a corner. It was too odd for me to understand what it was right away. Call me deranged/unhinged/cray-cray, but I was drawn to it.
This beauty was created by an artist named Cornelia Parker. It is called “Mass” and is composed of the charred remains left behind after lighting struck a church in Texas, sending it into flames.
Suddenly it all became clear.
Fire. It can bring warmth, but it can bring death. It can leave scars for a lifetime. It can ruin, it can bring pain.
The majority of the fires in my life have come from The Christian Church. I was marked, scarred. Charred. At the young age of 22, the past 10 years of my life have been forever altered by a pattern of hurt, betrayal, lies, and judgment stemming almost entirely from one source: Christians.
(Sidenote: I know some fantastic Christians as well. Christians whom I consider to be dear friends. I am a professing Christian myself. This isn’t an anti-Christian expose. This is merely telling my story with honesty. Any pain I’ve endured in my life has, almost in its entirety, come from Christians and/or The Christian Church. How do I still profess to be a Christian with a background like that?! Well that’s for another time…)
I have also witnessed other people on fire within the walls of churches. They’ve been burned. Badly. Left-out, condemned, talked about behind their backs, lied to, manipulated, shamed, shunned.
The fires within churches blaze all around this country, all around this globe. When people are amazed and disgusted by people leaving the church in droves, I feel no surprise, no shock whatsoever. People expect a place of acceptance, love and community, and sometimes, get WAY more than they bargained for.
They get charred.
At the Phoenix Art Museum, I was drawn to those charred remnants of that church- because I AM those charred remnants of the church.
I have been shrunk, discolored, and broken into thousands of pieces.
I think we’ve all been charred a bit by something. Bad relationships, addiction, mental illness, job loss, deaths in the family, abuse, or dreams that just never came to fruition.
“Mass” reminded me that there is hope to be found. There still beauty left in charred remnants.
In regard to her art, Cornelia Parker, is quoted: “I resurrect things that have been killed off… My work is all about the potential of materials – even when it looks like they’ve lost all possibilities.”
I see God that way. And that’s why I have hope. He resurrects what has been killed off. And whatever is more in the business of killing than of resurrecting, that thing is not of God. Even if that be a church, a pastor, or a sermon.
This artwork states: I survived. And not only did I survive, I became beautiful.
I state: I survived. And not only did I survive, I became beautiful.
And if I’m honest…sometimes I feel that it is more accurate to state: I am surviving and I am becoming beautiful. And that’s ok.
And now, like “Mass”, I want to share with the other charred remnants of the church or those who have been charred in another way: YOU can survive. And not only can you survive, you can become beautiful.