The Rewards of Community

This is a painting I call "Subtract".

I'm submitting it in the present Illustration Friday theme. It's a bit of a departure for me since I mostly do minimalist landscapes on paper. This is a large 2'x3' (24"x36"; 61cm x 91.5cm) acrylic on canvas, gallery-wrapped (no staples on the side, so ready to hang!).

subtract acrylic ink painting nakedpastor david hayward

(Click on image to see the original, or click HERE!)

While I was painting this piece, I was thinking of a theme that seems to be emerging in my mind quite a bit lately, and that is the theme of hope. I had to admit to myself that over the many years doing my vocation overseeing communities, I've experienced a great deal of disappointment. My love for community and passion for it has been ridiculed and rejected by so many.

Also, in the past, those in authority over me have launched attacks against me because of my ideas of community and the implementation of those ideas.

The difficult challenges and immeasurable losses over these many years have eroded my hope and undermined my optimism.

A couple of weeks ago I read a compilation of conversations with Wendell Berry. I've always loved reading his essays and found them so powerfully true. He says:

It just means making a commitment and hanging on, and never giving up. As long as you've got the life and willpower to continue, you continue. All that's based on a faith that my experience, to some extent, proves out- if you hang on, you'll see your way through whatever it is that's difficult- that there's going to be a reward. I believe that; it's my profoundest operating belief. Something will come. Out of the impasse, something will come that you'll be glad to know. I don't have enough faith in myself to believe the next choice I would make would be better than the one's I've already made... I think that I've been blessed in all the choices I've made, but I don't think that I would have found out that I was blessed if I hadn't kept to those choices.

I was caught by surprise when I read that.

Berry is not just a writer, but also a farmer who works 120 acres in Kentucky in the most wholesome way possible.

Farming is one of the strongest analogies to my vocation and community oversight. So when I read this, I realized that I had let my hope wane and that I had no sense that anything I had been doing was going to bear fruit. And when I lost hope in the possibility of reward, that's undoubtedly when my energy drains and my work weakens.

Then, just the other day as I was reading Bearing the Cross... Garrow's biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., I read something King said:

One knows deep down within there is something in the very structure of the cosmos that will ultimately bring about fulfillment and the triumph of that which is right. And this is the only thing that can keep one going in difficult periods.

Again, when I read that, I was shocked at how crippled I had allowed my hope to become. I had let my unalterable belief in that be altered.

I do believe in what I do for the people is best. I do believe in community. But I've permitted the constant resistance and hardships to rob me of my most essential ingredient to doing this kind of work, and that is hope.

If I really believe in what I believe, then I will work with all that is within me to realize the reality I see.

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