Grace and I are working with Mark to hang Life2, the new exhibit at The Bleeding Heart Art Space. The task is common–deciding what to hang where, and what to leave out. Our space is not large and we want each image to have the impact it deserves. The variables of this decision are a lot more complicated this time around.
Life2 is a show full of stories. True stories. Stories still being written. Stories with twists. Uncertain stories. Each photo represents a life being lived. A person who was in prison, but is now experiencing their second chance. All of the fear and doubt and judgement and shame that come with that. All of the hope for the past to stay the past.
But some pasts are just so strong.
These images were shot over a year ago. Some of these people are struggling again. One has gone back to prison. Do we show those photos? How do we balance sharing with sensitivity? How do we honor these stories and engage the community in them, while caring for these people.
Mark carries these questions like a burden. He wrestles. I watch, thinking mostly about what looks good in this particular blank space of wall. Our considerations are as different as our knowledge of these men and women.
I leave before the final cuts are made. Before the show has crystalized on our walls. Grace and Mark will finish. I drive off to my own blessed life. My family is celebrating a milestone. Our kids have got into Victoria Schoo. The school we had hoped for. We’re off to a 'trampoline park’ to celebrate. Literally jumping for joy.
My life is different from these lives on the wall in so many ways. But then, it’s not. I am still broken. I am still hurting and longing for a second chance. I am still tiptoeing tightropes between victory and defeat.
Heaven, we are told, is a final victory. We can stop holding our breath then. Maybe, more than anything else, that total relaxing of every anxious muscle is the greatest promise of all.
On this side of promise, victories are always temporary. The kids have made it into the school of choice, but still have to finish well where they are. And will they do well in a new school? Will they make friends? What notes will come home? What talks will we have? What will cause the tears to flow? If I remember right, junior high is not easy.
Even healing–that miracle of miracles–is temporary. CS Lewis’ wife Joy was given a reprieve from cancer. It came back to take her too soon. Jesus went to a lot of trouble to raise Lazarus from the dead. He would, of course, die again.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday in the Christian Calendar. The story goes that Jesus rode into town on a donkey to the cheering of crowds. The love of the people. Just a week later, they killed him. They turned.
So what’s the point of all that cheering. Those momentary smiles? Those temporary healings?
Working at a homeless mission in the city, I see so many steps forward, and nearly as many steps back. It’s hard to keep track of just how far we’ve come after all of that math.
This is what Mark is doing in the Bleeding Heart Art Space on Saturday. Hard math. What to add? What to subtract? How to come out with a positive sum.
The next morning I get up to head to church. The car is covered in snow. Just totally covered. Days earlier I was out with no coat and the snow was mostly memory. We all knew it would return. Now it has.
But wiping this snow off I laugh to myself. I laugh in hope. I know, deep down, that this is a temporary setback. The air is warm, after all. This snow is not the snow of February. This snow doesn’t have a fighting chance. In the end, the spring will come.
Spring always comes.