My church asked some artists in the congregation to create pieces for our current series, The Whole Story, as we began delving into the New Testament. I was assigned The Beatitudes. I must have read this passage dozens of times. It's fairly well-known and certainly referenced quite a bit in sermons. God is very gracious with us and knows we read and read and often do not retain or think about what we're reading. And sometimes, when we've read it for the thirty-fifth time, God tells you to slow down and listen.
In preparation for this piece, I immediately whipped up some lettering sketches. They were the usual kind, often what I post on Instagram, things that don't take me long but make me feel like I've accomplished something. I picked the one I liked best and started to think about how I wanted to spice it up with color or canvas or ink. But it really didn't sit right with me. It just looked like a clump of words.
Jacob informed me that some imagery might be helpful. I bristled. I'm most comfortable with lettering lately, it's where I've put the bulk of my energy and time, but I kept the suggestion in mind.
Then I did something I highly suggest no artist do. I googled the subject of my project to see what other artists or designers had done. I had hit a wall, okay? There were flowery lettering pieces, sunsets, those rosy illustrated Bible scenes from the '70s, and a lot of word collages. Nothing seemed suitable to the passage. So I returned to my Bible, read Matthew 5, and the words finally began to impact me.
Poor in spirit. Meek. Mourn. Hunger, thirst. Persecuted. This is a bleak pool of words. These are not qualities you desire for your life. These are not words you want to describe your life with. I know, at least for me, I ideally want to describe my life as successful, comfortable, safe, and peaceful. I think the recent massacre in Orlando is a stark reminder of what man is capable of - what each and every one of us is capable of. We are all capable of horrible, evil, unthinkable things. My ideal life could be taken in an instant because someone hates what I am, or what I believe in, or just because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Beatitudes suddenly were not comforting to me. It was like being shaken by the shoulders. I was being told what I had been told over and over again, so much so it was white noise: "The Christian life is not an easy one. You are not guaranteed safety, success, wealth, comfort, your dreams or ambitions."
In fact, Jesus is offering up a set of gifts exclusively to those who are rejecting or accepting a life lacking or devoid of safety, success, wealth, and comfort. It's a radical notion to be rewarded for suffering. And The Beatitudes are a wealth of hope amid a world that often violently snuffs out light.
Blessed. You who are poor, in mourning, meek and powerless, hungry and thirsty, those starving for justice, merciful to the merciless, righteous, those seeking peace amid a world shouting for vengeance. You who are reflecting the qualities of Christ, are blessed.
I was so grateful to actually hear these words for the first time. Then I was wrecked to fully realize I am lacking in these qualities.
You and I have the potential to be a bright light in a dark world.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
But our life is brief.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
Yet our time here can be spent as blessed, as a reflection of Christ.
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Though the evil in the world may seem overwhelming, we have been given hope.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
I currently have no prints available in my online store, but you may purchase my Beatitudes artwork on my Society6 page. If you would like to download the piece to print for yourself, you have my permission, but please do not resell or market as your own artwork. Thank you!