"Made His dwelling among us.....In the darkess"

Last night I had the opportunity to visit Sacred Studio. Sacred Studio is a micro-church that meets in my friend Mara's home for a time of artistic expression and reflection on scripture. Last night we read John chapter 1:1-18 together and then everybody started working on their art. Its been a long time since I have really drawn anything and I gotta say I really loved the experience. It was a great way to engage the passage, reflect and overall just seemed therapeutic. I didn't give my piece that I sketched a lot of thought but just started and let it happen. The part in the passage that really stood out to me was "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." It is such a theologically rich phrase from scripture that I have pondered many times and had just been thinking about as I read Part two of Tillich's systematic theology.  I began tying to explore this line and drew a man (flesh) standing near a tent. I used a tent because one way that this verse could be translated is "...and pitched his tent among us." I have always liked thinking about it as "moved onto the block." Anyway what does it mean to be "among us" i wondered? What came to my mind was the angst and longing or mans existential condition. I began covering the page with words like isolation, pain, hunger, guilt, shame etc. The darker it got the better I felt about the piece as I began reflecting on the phrase from the passage that "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." As I surrounded this flesh with darkness I put broken shackles on his wrists to symbolize one who knows bondage, our condition, but who has not been transformed by it (not overcome) but has himself overcome it. I just kept drawing and chatting with others who were there. I never thought much of this piece but was just trying to enjoy the process.
Later in the night, after I felt finished drawing, a neighbor who was there was sitting on the ground saying that he felt like he might pass out. A few people were trying to make him feel better and offering him food or water. He refused everything and started saying something about it not being his year and other really sad statements. I walked over to him, got down on the ground and asked how he was feeling. "I am really depressed" he told me. I didn't ask why or pretend that I could make it better but just sat with him and said "I understand, I am sorry." After a minute of sitting with him I jumped up ran and grabbed my drawing and came back to him. "Can I tell you about my drawing?" I asked. He nodded and I laid this drawing in front of him.

Do you recognize these words? I asked. He began nodding yes aggressively. "Me too" I said "we all do." This is what is most real to most of us here, whether we say it or not. I told him that I really respected him for having the courage to come out and say it. Many of us are unsure about what we think about God or love or faith but we know, really know, in an existential way about guilt and pain and death and fear. This is what I had been reflecting on all night and I began to share with him my own struggles and pain and he just kept nodding yes, Yes, YES. Life is hard and often lonely and dark and this, I pointed out, is what John 1 is saying. The word, which is a translation of the Greek Logos, means the meaning, the purpose, the point, the reason. Logos had been used as a technical term in philosophy since Heraclitus, long before John was written. This huge philosophical concept, which is really the ground of being, became flesh and lived among us. Among us in our existential condition, among us in darkness, but He was not overcome by that darkness. That's why his chains are broken I said. I pointed to the cross-hairs that I had drawn on his chest. I drew these for two reasons: One is that this man, the word made flesh, lived with the center of his being at the center of the divine life. He was not estranged, like us, but united with God even while living within the conditions of existence.  The second reason for the cross-hairs is that center in Him is the target for our life.  He is, and made available New Being in Christ. In him we can find the courage and power of being to also not be overcome by the darkness though we live within it. We can, like him, shine in the darkness.

My new friend didn't say too much but he looked up as though to just say thank you for being in this with me. I smiled and asked him if he wanted my drawing. He took it and gave me a big hug.

We are not alone in our condition and there is much meaning in the seemingly meaningless pain. That meaning has made his dwelling there.