Fourth Week of Lent | Sally Holt
My aunt is an artist. As a very young girl, I admired her abilities and knew that the images she depicted with her paints captured interesting and varied perspectives. Several years ago, I went to one of her shows to see what she had recently produced. I still remember turning a corner and seeing a small, solitary painting hanging on the wall in front of me. It was a painting of a sheep’s face. The animal seemed to have a slight smile on its face, but part of the face was obscured. The image fades into light, or maybe into shadow, or maybe, somehow, into both at the same time. I bought the painting that evening. It still hangs on a wall in my home.
Reading and thinking about the passages for today’s devotional made me think of the painting of the sheep. The face of the animal shows vulnerability and at the same time somehow depicts peacefulness. Lent seems to me to be such a season, a season that is marked by vulnerability and also the promise of peace. In the Psalms, we are reminded that God’s love is steadfast. Even if the sheep are scattered, as depicted in the book of Jeremiah, there will be a time when righteousness prevails. In John’s Gospel, we are beckoned to remember that Jesus is sent to us, and that we must partake of the gift offered through Incarnation; in Paul’s beautiful passage in Romans, we are told that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s steadfast love.
I sometimes question whether such promises are true. My humanity, my own vulnerability, demands that I ask such questions. How can this promise of enduring love be real, given the other things Paul mentions? What of hardship, distress, persecution and famine? What of peril? What is enough? How much suffering can be endured before the belief in God’s steadfast love is broken? Is the fragile sheep in my painting just a reminder of one more casualty, one more life lost or slaughtered?
During the Lenten season, peace abides, hand in hand with vulnerability. The sheep in my painting reminds me of this peace. The promise of these passages seems true to me because I am not the one carrying the burden of steadfastness. The authors of the passages don’t suggest that I, in my human vulnerability, am steadfast. They promise that God’s love is enduring. I may rebel. I may be lost and I may suffer. But God loves me still.
During Lent, think of vulnerability and think of peace. God reached to us in our human vulnerability through Incarnation, through crucifixion. Peace comes alongside vulnerability in the promise that God is with us. And we wait for the victory of Easter.
Associate Professor, School of Religion