The picture on the wall –
(AKA “The boy who put Jesus in the drawer!”)
“The boy looked at the small painting on his bedroom wall
a painting of Jesus – very beautiful!
He could see the bright sheen around his garments;
He could make out the holes in his hands,
still bloodied and stretched out in some curious welcome.
The boy shivered at the thought of nails driven into hands
Why would God allow that?
The boy could appreciate the artist’s talent;
– he must have looked at Jesus very carefully.
The boy, however, could not hold that gaze
For him this was more than a painting…
Though he loved it – and though there was something admirable and quite fascinating about the man – the boy was worried.
He was met by eyes which he could not fathom;
Even with the curtains closed and the lights off, still
He was searched by eyes that unsettled him
And kept him from sleep…
By eyes that looked right inside him
to the real boy inside…
Try as he might, the boy could not escape those eyes.
‘But Jesus loves little ones like you’, his uncle insisted. ‘Jesus means you no harm.’
But the boy still felt frightened…
He had to turn away from that searching gaze.
Against his uncle’s better judgment
the painting came down off the wall.
His auntie was furious at the sacrilege and at
‘That boy who put Jesus (facedown) in a drawer!’
The boy became a man and the man turned his back on Jesus – and kept him facedown, covered – closed.
I often ask myself what it was that made me turn away from God.
I have no doubt it was God I was turning away from
And not simply a picture…
And hiding from God…
But what kind of God?
The God of the church that scared and confused me…
The God they twisted on to tortured statues?
The God I made in the image of an angry aunt?
The God who caught boys in their crimes?
The hectoring, the hellish God of my imagination
Who barked, “TRY HARDER!”
The God from whom anyone would run…
The God who didn’t like me the way I was…
And yet now, when God looks at me (still that same boy, in truth), even with all things I know about myself, he knows them before they’ve even occurred to me.
And I dare to say:
“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty has given me life.” (Job 33:4)
I can still say I am the clay in the hands of the potter (Isaiah 64:8).
When I compare myself with others and find myself wanting; when anyone who is anyone can be found walking on red carpets, I dare say:
“I (too) am fearfully and wonderfully made; your work (this work) is wonderful. I know that full well…”
I am sure that if I were ever to find that painting of Jesus again I wouldn’t cram it face down in the drawer.
I would allow him to scan my soul with those eyes (good but not so safe) in the knowledge of their compassion;
In the knowledge that running would be of no avail anyway;
In the knowledge that he knows me best; and in the blessed assurance that, by some miraculous exchange, I am now his brother and he is my King.
And, should I make it to the recesses of the Judges’ Chambers at the end of all time, the man with the shepherd gaze and the heart to match, will be my Advocate, and God-My-Father will say,
“Come, I’m well-pleased because, not only do you fear my Son, but you love him and trust him and you have kept him before your eyes! “
I will hear my kind Uncle’s words again,
‘M F - that’s all a boy need do!’”
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. (From Psalm 139)
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4: 18-19)
The true story behind the reflection:
I was about eight years old and living for a time with my aunt and Uncle in Yorkshire. They were Catholic Christians. On my bedroom wall, above a chest of drawers, there was a picture, a painting of Jesus Christ, an ethereal representation of the Risen Jesus with arms outstretched. I remember a feeling of fascination and fear about the picture, and especially how the eyes of Jesus followed me around the room; how, even with the lights off and the curtains closed, those eyes just seemed to follow me. I loved and feared the painting in equal measure.
My Uncle was a kindly man, a proper godly man. He took the painting off the wall. It fit well in the sock drawer. He knew my auntie, less kind as I recall her, would be displeased at Jesus “being put back in the drawer!”
Many years later the boy in the story would meet the Risen Lord for real.
I have here adapted a reflection I wrote originally in 2002 when I was converted and when I began
“…to look deeply into my own life and examine its motivations and responses I was alarmed, sometimes, at what I found there. Some generosity of spirit - yes; and generosity towards others, yes; and I thanked God for these, of course. But I found other ugly things lurking there, too - the jealousy and greed, the self-centredness and lust, deviousness and lack of self-control…”
– All the things that the LORD had known about anyway!
Many years later the boy in the story would meet the Risen Lord at last and discovered in those eyes an all-seeing God of power, most certainly – but also a God of kindness and compassion and love.
I would, like you too, discover the truth of “Amazing Grace” – that there was *nothing I could do to make God love me more and *nothing I could do to make God love me less…
*from the back cover of “What’s so amazing about Grace?” (P. Yancey)
Mark Faris-Robertson February 17th 2017