I felt the urge to share another art image this morning, and here it is. I’ve got to say, however, that I didn’t expect to see this old friend of a painting in a totally new way. At first, I scrolled through my image files and stopped at Enter Fire, drawn by its powerful questions, “Who am I?” “Who is God?” and “Who are we?” I remembered asking these when a dear friend spoke them in a Quaker Meeting for Worship 14 years ago. But then, all of a sudden I saw the colors and questions in a political way.
These days in the US, I can’t help but think of Red vs Blue. All this vicious fighting, entrenching our positions, makes my soul sick. In this toxic climate, “Who am I?” becomes a question of what I’m against. “Who is God?” gets used to define moral judgments and decide who is rejected. But this morning I was surprised by the other color in my art image: the question “Who are we?” rests in purple, in the meeting of blue with red. For a moment, I imagined blending our ideas of what we are for (not just what we’re against) with our sacred knowing about love and right relationships (not just what’s bad and wrong). I dreamed about people meeting each other to ask, “Who are we?” with the real listening, real humility, and real humanity to bring about change that honors all of us.
But we all know a shift like that isn’t remotely simple. I can’t just paint red and blue to make purple and expect us to all get along. There’s a far deeper layer at work. Look– the painting itself opens up, like a book, like a painful story we’re writing together:
See the wounding? See the stitches? We Americans– but especially white Americans like me with education, money, and power– need to actually see and begin to address the wounds of racism, classism, sexism, religious exclusivism, heterosexism, ableism, and too many more. Our national story is cut apart by all the ways we’ve judged and excluded each other. We are wounded, and we are part of the wounding. The injuries must be acknowledged and opened in order to be treated.
It seems to me that this US election cycle has ripped off the bandages we’ve been ignoring. I’m embarrassed at how shocked I am to see more of the hatred, injustice, and violence that our brothers and sisters of color and others on the margins have been bleeding from for years and years. I haven’t really wanted to understand more deeply and ache with them. Many days, I’d rather forget about even my own painful history of being excluded and vilified for my sexual orientation. Then I’m nauseous with more grief to learn the stunning extent of ecological destruction, to watch protective legal regulations disappear, and to see photos of bone-thin polar bears stranded on melted ice floes. I can barely look.
Our wounding gets more clear each day.
See the fire? I sense the growing fires of outrage and despair burning in our country and in our world. Right alongside, I see a fiery rising of passion, justice, and change. The invitation is here, to “enter fire,” to find out what can be reborn if we walk right into and through these flames with courage, creativity, and faith.
I’ve heard somewhere that seeds from many pine trees and prairie grasses refuse to open and germinate without being touched by fire. And I hear from the Spirit this morning that political wildfires are cracking our toughened husks. We are given this unwelcome but necessary chance to send out roots and shoots to grow fresh, empowered, life-giving ways of treating each other and our planet.
See the prayer? “The story of our wounds healing….” I believe this is a long, scary, gorgeous, painful, freeing, essential story– a heroes’ journey to become a people who love ourselves, welcome each other, and nurture our Earth. What will it mean to live out loud and enact the pieces of this prayer, like “our sorrows becoming” or “transformation into love” or “deeper welcome of all things?” I want to find out, today, tomorrow, and over my whole lifetime. My response this morning is to follow the guidance to write this article and share it with you!
I trust that many of us are stepping into discovery by refocusing our priorities and listening to our inner wisdom and our hearts. So many of us are remembering our faith: with spiritual guidance, we actually do have everything we need to bring healing and transformation.
May all of us share this vision and work to embody the real-life, daily practice of joy and well-being that includes everyone.
Amen, so it is.
See the Enter Fire image details.
Deep thanks to my dear, wise friend Barbarajene Williams who asked the three questions that inspired this painting in 2003.