“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Serenity prayer)
Take a look at the first picture. I wonder what you notice? The large fir trees? The snow? The building rising from the mist? The crucifix under the tree and the boy in front of it? Or (presumably) his crutches in the foreground, a visual devise that leads the eye into the picture. This is a painting by Friederich Caspar, a romantic artist who had a deep Christian faith. There are many ways to read the picture, as with all art, but recently I heard it framed in the idea of the ‘now and the not yet’: the thought that we have some realities that we live with and some that we hope for. The boy in the picture has abandoned his crutches almost recklessly to sit with a crucifix, a symbol of healing through pain. Far away in the distance, an ethereal church appears almost as a heavenly vision of the New Jerusalem, a Christian symbol for a new beginning when everything is healed, and a new rule of God’s justice means a new world.
At the moment we are living with the now and the not yet in a very real way: the vaccine programme offers hope, but it’s not failsafe and many people are not receiving it yet. I’m very aware that this time last year, Covid 19 was just starting to properly impact on our thinking and we couldn’t have imagined what might follow or the fact that it would have gone on for so long. Yet here we are, still living with its reality and no clear idea of when or if we can go back to ‘normal’. We even have coined a new term for all of this: the new norm.
The second image shows snowdrops appearing through the snow. This is a recent drawing I have made. Soon after this, we had yet another huge fall of snow, and they were buried again. The flowers seemed such a promise of spring, yet the weather told me that we’re not clear of winter yet. What is hopeful though, is that the snowdrops survive, and their flowers are yet again poking above the remnants of the snow. How do we live with this tension between what we yearn for and what we experience? How do we keep that hope poking up through the snow of our daily lives?
Perhaps it if in keeping that balance between our short- and long-term vision? In finding solace in this new now, rather like the boy sat at the crucifix, but without losing our hope for more, for a better world, a proverbial new Jerusalem, whatever that means for us and our communities. By noticing those moments of pure joy such as the snowdrop in the snow, those things we so easily forget to celebrate. And by also believing and working towards a new norm: a hope that we can change our world for good.
Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
- Where is your daily delight? What brings you solace?
- What do you still hope for?
- How can you work towards this hope?
You will need you smart phone.
- Each day for the coming week, take a photo of something that you notice. At the end of the day, spend a couple of minutes with your picture.