Years ago I did a commissioned art series for a church pastored by someone that I hold in high esteem and care deeply for. It was an advent series that we entitled “Fragile Vessels”. These vessels were made out of old papers, lace, and fabrics and were set on the stairs leading up to the altar and lit from within with candles. The sermon series dealt with the fragility of human life, the appearance of the Christ as a small infant, the resiliency of the human spirit – the complexity that is the Christian faith.
I strongly believe that art should be experienced with more than the eyes and therefore these pieces were handled a great deal – especially by the children of the congregation. There was damage as would be expected of fragile pieces.
At the end of the advent season, these pieces were returned to me and were carefully stored in a box. They are among the objects that I have struggled with the disposition of in recent days.
At the time, I was seriously exploring a vocation as a minister. Since then, my path has changed dramatically. I don’t doubt that my journey today is the correct one, but would be lying to say that I don’t have some regrets about how things turned out.
I would say that I am still a believer in God, but my interest in “organized” religion has changed dramatically. I question more and study further. I am open to the beliefs of others. I am not so sure of anything anymore. My faith is not blind. I am older and more mature. The world is complicated. The answers not so clear.
The pastor that these pieces were created with and for is no longer an active part of my life. I’m not very good at staying in touch with people – even those I care about. On some level though, I still feel a strong connection with her. She is fighting a difficult health battle right now.
We are fragile vessels.
Words rarely fail me. In this case they have. Prayer just seems inadequate. I couldn’t sleep tonight thinking about my inability to let go of these art pieces, her illness, our loss of connection, and my failure to find words to articulate my thoughts and feelings.
And then I thought about the fact that many cultures believe that prayer can be carried by smoke in the wind upwards towards heaven.
The fragile vessel made of old paper, lace and fabric wouldn’t stay lit. The fire kept going out. And then a light rain started to fall.
Maybe we are stronger than we think. Maybe we don’t have all the answers. Maybe we aren’t meant to understand it all or know what the outcome shall be.
Some things are just a mystery.