“But you are our letter, and you are in our hearts for everyone to read and understand. You are like a letter written by Christ and delivered by us. But you are not written with pen and ink or on tablets made of stone. You are written in our hearts by the Spirit of the living God.” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3 CEV)
The time grows closer when I’ll be returning to New York’s lower Manhattan to be part of the continuing work led by Tom and the people of the Bowery Mission to reach out to the homeless community in the New York area. I grow alternately excited and nervous, joyful and fearful, as it approaches. There will be friends made from last year still in the program there and there will be new faces flushed with the acknowledgement of God’s hand upon them. Some of the community that is served at the Bowery will be the same, a year older and worn by their experiences on the streets and some will not be returning…..their time on this world having passed. That is why I experience such range of emotions and feelings.
When I am praying at my desk, pondering over the words that God has given me today or the thoughts of a mentor, a friend or the words of my children; I stare at the red apron displayed on the wall above it. Listed are the names of the workers and the men in the program and some of those in the community who were served during our time at the Bowery last year. Joshua, Martin, Marvin, Jose, Cuba and so many others. The apron, which only had “The Bowery Mission: Rebuilding Lives since 1879” on it, is covered now in black marker with very little space left to display only red cloth. It reminds me of the sins redeemed by the blood of Christ, it reminds me of the men and women of the Bowery community who have begun a journey towards home and it reminds me of one other thing……a canvas, a blank sheet of paper and a empty picture frame.
An artist friend of mine in Australia doesn’t see a blank, white canvas before her when she begins to transform it into a work of artistic expression (I hesitate to say “work of art” because she tends to disagree, but they are). The ‘emptiness’ that stares back at her isn’t something that needs to be filled with nonsense, it beckons her to bring its unique expression out for those of us ‘blind’ to the wonder of its art to see. It is the artist’s talent and passion that brings it out with clarity for us to appreciate. In much the same way, the photographer doesn’t look at the picture and select any old frame to put it in but rather looks for the unique and most complimentary frame to surround the picture to which it has been selected to hold. Not so that our eyes are drawn to the frame to express the appreciation of its borders but to draw our eyes inward to the picture and the story that it tells.
To a writer, the blank page (lined or unlined) is not simply something in which to write randomness on, to draw simplistic renderings of the world around them but to write a story…a letter to those whom they know of a beautiful story of events, people and places to take the reader upon a journey into that story so they may enjoy the beauty and splendor of it as well.
The beauty of the canvas, the blank sheet of paper and the empty picture frame is that once they are filled with the essence of what they were meant to convey, they can be viewed by anyone and the expression of the joyful story explained by the artist is open for everyone to enjoy.
I don’t go to the Bowery to write my own story of what is going on there in the boughs of Manhattan….I go to read the story of God’s redeeming love and grace as expressed on the canvases of the community there.
To be transformed, to be humbled and to be challenged by the writing hand of the Father.