It’s taken from a 16th century painting of Christ, Man of Sorrows. It is stitched on a large wire fence panel using torn fabric and heavyweight wool. I wanted to explore the hard vs. soft contrast: Christ, the all-powerful son of God is the man of sorrows, beaten and bruised; traditional image, traditional technique vs unconventional materials. I worked on it during Lent and thought that it would be an opportunity for reflection and meditation as I worked – romantic fool that I am!
In the event it was actually a very stressful process, both physically (working into that wire, bent over the dining room table left me with raw fingers and a very painful back) and emotionally (we were preparing to move house and having some essential repairs done which kept threatening disaster and the dissolution of all our plans, but I had the Easter deadline to keep). I don’t think I did any meditating or reflecting except in choosing what fabric to use next or wondering why everything always happens at once.
I was reminded of this process last week when I used Si Smith’s brilliant 40 CD again at a service. It always strikes me what a long time 40 days and nights is. I think we often have warm fuzzy ideas about retreat and withdrawal from the world (especially when life is busy and we feel hard-pressed) and visions of rapturous communion with God, but the reality can be a deeply painful confrontation with oneself.
I suppose I can’t leave this on such a negative note. For Christ of course, his forty days in the desert equipped him for his ministry. (As Si’s minimal text says, "for my thirtieth birthday I gave myself some time away from it all. And now I’m back". For me, the process of work on my piece was painful, but the completion was a very satisfying outworking of what had been in my head and I also have the pleasure of knowing that the piece has been used in worship by the mayBe community.
I obviously still have warm and fuzzy ideas about retreat, since I have just booked a four-day walking retreat on Dartmoor in May. I’m braced for aching joints and muscles, blisters, insect bites, dehydration, hypothermia; but please can I skip the meeting me bit and just get to the communion with God bit.
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