Deeply Broken. Dearly Loved.
Dimension: 30 by 23cm.
Medium: Acrylic on canvas.
Year completed: 2018.
“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” - Vincent van Gogh -
This painting is inspired by a dream I had more then 25 years ago. The dream God gave me when He called me to Vietnam. In the dream, I invited 5 Vietnamese friend to my house for dinner. They came, but each of them brought another friend. That was not it. Their friends brought another friend. I remember vividly in my dream that my hospitality towards my 5 friends turns into hostility. But the people would not stop coming. They kept coming into the house.
I was exhausted, angry and I resented them. Then a voice spoke to me saying, “Michael, look into their eyes.” As I looked into the eyes of each person as they entered the house, I saw through their eyes abuse, addiction, divorce, loneliness, rage, abandonment, hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, mistrust. Tears began to roll and I woke up from the dream sobbing.
The dream was so vivid - and that was the call for me to go to Vietnam. To be among the people who are hurting and to be among those who need a wounded healer like myself (borrowing Henri Nuowen's term). I am deeply broken, but dearly loved.
Thus in the painting you see 5 faces. Their eyes betray what they try to hide. It makes you want to know their stories. What are behind those faces?
However, one out of the five faces looks different. There is a sense of peace in the midst of the pain and suffering. Above the 5 faces is a Vietnamese roof that stretches out into the horizon into the clear blue sky. The faces are framed in a background of lotus plants in a pond and a mythical bird, half phoenix, half dove rose from behind. The tiles on the roof signify rolls of people walking into the horizon where the roof meets the sky. Can beauty emarge out of murky waters? Can anything good come out of pain and sufferings?
The good news is, through my own struggle with fatigue and burnout, I experienced what Manning so beautifully captured in his book “The Rabbi’s Heartbeat” pg 39. He said “at L’Arche, it became very clear to me that I had totally misunderstood the Christian faith. I came to see that it was in my brokenness, in my powerlessness, in my weakness that Jesus was made strong. It was in the acceptance of my lack of faith that God could give me faith. It was in the embracing of my brokenness that I could identify with others’ pain, not relieve it. Ministry was sharing, not dominating; understanding, not theologizing; caring, not fixing…”
This transforms and is contiuning to transform the way I go about doing work, meaningful work. To come alongside the weary, wounded, lost, confused, and along the way experience what is truly good news.