“Come and See,” Acrylic and Crushed Tree Bark on Canvas, 30”x40”, 2019. The Greek and Hebrew text and translations are as follows: ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε (“Come and see” from John 11:34) and אַתָּ֖ה אֵ֣ל רֳאִ֑י (“You are the God who sees me” from Genesis 16:13).
I know Christmas is right around the corner, but I just wanted to take a moment to share my latest painting, which ties into Christmas if you keep reading. This wasn’t necessarily intentional, but I believe that God works everything out according to His perfect will and timing. This is the first painting I’ve completed since my studio residency started in early November, and the only large-scale piece I’ve completed since August. I had been playing with ideas for several months, but I had no concrete direction for my next piece, which began to weigh on me.
In October, after over a month of wrestling with ideas, I came across Genesis 16 in my daily reading, a passage that spoke to the uncertainty I was facing. It details the plight of Hagar, Sarah’s (Abraham’s wife) maidservant, who after being found pregnant by Abraham (at Sarah’s own scheming, for she was barren) and abused by Sarah, flees to a spring in the desert. There, the angel of the LORD finds her and comforts her in her uncertainty and distress. Hagar did not know how her pregnancy would work out or what would come of her situation, but the LORD told her to return to Sarah and promised that her descendants would be “too numerous to count” and that she would have a child named “Ishmael” (Meaning: “God hears”) because the LORD had heard of her misery (Genesis 16:11). After this personal encounter with the LORD, Hagar says of Him, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). The whole passage really struck me, and I recorded this reflection in my art journal on 10/24, “In the desert of life, You are the God who sees me. You search for me and pursue me, even in that dry place of uncertainty, when I don’t know what to do next.”
Two days later, my struggles with ideas suddenly became an afterthought as I shockingly learned that a close family friend had passed away earlier that afternoon. The news hit me very hard, especially after having attended a funeral earlier that day for someone else. This piece expresses my personal grief over my friend’s death, but it also affirms to those who mourn that their suffering is real and tangible and it needn’t be ignored or hidden. With this stark, confrontational gaze, I encourage viewers to “come and see,” and acknowledge the reality of suffering and death that confronts us all. The sting of death may not be something we want to talk about or think about on a daily basis, but we need to recognize that there are many around us who are facing it, and no one should have to go through that alone. Yes, the darkness is very real, but is that where it all ends?
For thousands of years, people had walked in the shadow of death. The darkness was real and piercing and all-consuming. Until one night, unbeknownst to the world, a newborn baby’s cries, so ordinary yet extraordinary, shattered the silence of centuries. In a lowly manger, pure Light pierced through the blackness of the night.
To find true comfort and healing for our souls, we must look outside of ourselves. To the perfect One who voluntarily left His place in heaven and humbled Himself to enter our broken and dark human existence, marred with the reality of sin, pain, and death. Here is where Christmas comes in.
“Come and see…” Who are these words really speaking to? Are they speaking to us? Or are they the words we speak to Another?
“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled: ‘Where have you laid him?” He asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.