Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vision


This painting depicts a small country church constructed in 1903. Nestled in the countryside it is as nondescript as a thousand others. While her belfry watches like a worried mother, arched windows whisper of earlier days and simpler times. Her frail voice speaks to a dwindling few. Many that once crossed the threshold now travel to a destination further down the road.

My brother e-mailed a picture of the church we grew up in; her stature and lines no longer perfect as they appear in the painting. Even the holiest of places cannot always escape the forces of nature.

The aftermath of a tornado forces my heart into the back of my throat with a power that words can only dream of. My eyes grow weary, but like the shutter of a camera deliver images that cannot be easily undone. Her brokenness speaks to me with such clarity. For a moment I am with her.

Whistling winds escorted by an eerie darkness roll across the western sky. Quickly the lights overhead seem not nearly enough. There are no tracks yet I feel the rumbling vibrations reverberating in my chest. As invisible as night the train is unmistakably powerful and black. The foundation trembles, even bricks fear the approach of such a force whose course cannot be altered. Plaster strikes the wooden floor with a slap of finality; its last breathe visibly exhaled in dusty plumes. Pushed beyond reason, twisted frames loose their grip and regret displaces oxygen. Colored panes of glass fall from grace in a final, unceremonious descent. Only the howling wind insulates my ears from the morbid, groaning, and grinding within. Antique lights sway sweetly against their chains like a reluctant conductor as the chords of death play on.

I glance from the computer screen as a single thought burrows itself deep into my brain. I envision the Father frowning as I consider why it is he did not spare his own house. Yet I believe he understands completely the frailty of humanity and it is the Spirit that provides company for my lonely thought.

The only face that witnessed the destruction firsthand was that of the clock, hands frozen forever at 10:30. Although the storm passed through on a Sunday morning during regular worship hours, why did the pews remained empty? Perhaps he could no longer bear to see the faithful ten or twelve parishioners languish over the cost of upkeep that meager coffers can longer fund. Perhaps he sent the band of neighbors and Mennonites to retrieve the bell and contents while the tattered frame still stood.

Maybe my eyes see only a fraction of the picture. It is quite possible that tomorrow as I pass the painting hanging on my wall something will cause me to pause, viewing it in a different light. As I stand admiring the past perhaps I will also see hope for the future. Long past due I will take the time to render thanks to the artist for his/her foresight and their view so much broader than mine.

10 comments:

Shirley said...

Hey Dan, A sad story indeed but I've never believed that God resides within a building but rather within hearts. Sounds like he's found yours with or without the building. :)

Jo Janoski said...

So beautifully written with splashes of insight that match the painting somehow in its gentle rendering of a lost soul.

Dan said...

You are correct, Shirley, but so many times our memories almost seem inseparable from surroundings. Although he passed several years before my birth, my great-grandfather preached there as a young man.

Thanks, Jo. The artist's name is barely visible and unrecognizable, but one of the older ladies of the church knew who painted it. She's in her mid-eighties now, but all I can remember is that each Sunday morning she used to latch onto my cheek and give it a good shake.

Bob said...

It is terribly difficult to discuss matters of faith in this sort of forum, but your faith shines throughout. No one could ask more from any writer... well done.

Selma said...

I completely understand about feeling tied to a church. A church I went to as a child burned down a few years back. It was so sad to know it was gone - there were so many memories for so many people. This is so well written, I felt a little catch in my throat as I read.

terrymcdermott said...

I agree with Shirley. This very moving.

Jo A. T.B. said...

A beautiful tribute Dan to your Great Grandfather and memories of your church! I always loved the belfry. Funny how we grow older, and cherish memories of places we left behind. Nice photo and words to go with it!

Angel C. said...

Dan, this was very touching. As Shirley said, God does reside within our hearts, but we are tied to places that hold many memories for us. Everytime I go back home for a visit and pass the church I grew up in, it brings a wave of nostalgia.

Scott Clawson said...

The only thing worse than a dead church on the outside, is a dead church on the inside. Dwindly few is right. A great read for the picture.

snore stop said...

The painting is wonderful,i enjoy your post.Your blog is always fascinating to read.