Archives, Pondering, Songs of Assent, Wheaton

Repainting the Portrait

Last week I met separately with two young women. Both are in their 20’s, both are in serious dating relationships, both desire to “do this right,” -and both see themselves and their beloved through the distorted lenses of difficult backgrounds. While the nature of their concerns were radically different, but their fear was so similar. They are terrified of repeating what they experienced as children, and there are moments where they just want to run and hide, because the fear is so great.

Although neither one would have recognized the underlying symbolism in our conversation, my encouragement to both of them (while vastly different in detail) rested on the foundation I state in “Simplicity.’ In this book “feminine” includes all created things that find themselves drawn into vital connection with an outside source.…(p. 30)

Vital connections are, by definition, vulnerable connections. “I give myself to you” comes with so many risks, and even as our hearts long to be known, sometimes they have a mind of their own that wants to run and hide. Our hearts can be, quite literally, “broken.” But thanks be to God that, in Jesus, my friends are heirs to the wholeness of an undivided heart. For Jesus did not come only to redeem us, but to recreate what was broken and make us new. St. Athanasius pens this gorgeous word picture to speak of the fullness of lesus’ incarnation:

“You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes obliterated through
external stains. The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit
for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so it was with the All-holy Son of
God. He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst, in order that He might renew mankind made
after Himself (St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, St Vladimir’s Press, 1993, p. 41).

My young friends are pressing in, walking their journeys, learning to love rather than to leave. They are learning to embrace the beautiful mystery of being drawn into vital connection with another. But they do not walk alone, nor simply with a few good friends. A Savior who refuses to rip up the canvas of their broken lives accompanies them. He is painstakingly re-creating the likeness he originally intended that they might live whole, free, and vitally connected.

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