Took a risk tonight and set up an easel with some mounting board, spreading out mine and the kids’ gear over two tables in the coffee lounge to create a live interpretation of the first First Wednesday service of 2014, we celebrated baptism tonight.
Baptism – a ceremonial washing, the public action proclaiming personal faith, spiritual cleansing, the start of new life
Who can stand on the mountain of God? Who can scale the holy north-face? Only the clean-handed, only the pure-hearted;
men who won’t cheat, women who won’t seduce – Psalm 24:3-4
Give us clean hands
Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another
The representation in this piece is obvious, hands dripping in clear, clean water. When do we wash or hands? Before we eat. After we’ve been working hard. During flu season, because we don’t want to get sick. Why do we wash our hands? It prevents harmful bacteria and viruses from entering our body or transferring to another’s. It is not respectful to have dirt, grease, paint (whatever your grime of choice) caked into the grooves of your skin and fingernails when you interact with the public. It’s just plain feels good to be clean! Water does that for our skin, baptism does that for our soul.
This image hit me on Sunday afternoon, while I was posting this week’s drawing entry. I knew the plan was a baptism service, so I wanted to properly represent the most visual and personal act in the Christian faith. My art has been on a ‘hand’ kick lately, a lot of messages that have used hands in the image. I chose to stick with that theme to translate ‘baptism’ and the old worship song “Give Us Clean Hands” came to mind. Originally written by King David, the song is an ancient Psalm set to modern music.
The process of creating this piece is as representative of baptism as the piece itself. My 7 and 4 year old covered a piece of mounting board with bright hues of wax crayons and oil pastels. I strategically had them color the bottom third of the panel white, where the image would be water. With the color done, I covered the board with a thick coat of black Tempra paint and the prep work was complete. As the service began, I opened up my pocket knife and began scraping away the black paint, using an Exacto knife to create finer details of the fingers. As I scraped away the dirty facade, the beauty of the panel’s true colors shone through. As the Holy Spirit wiped the slate clean on faithful souls, freeing their colors to shine, I was freeing this image from its Tempra prison.
I finished the piece using a glossy acrylic varnish. I covered the bottom third with a solid coat, then painted the palms full. The movement of the image was completed by splattering drips of varnish below the hands, simulating the phenomena of liquid running through your fingers as you splash a handful of water on your face.
I recall my own baptism, how I knew what I was doing but didn’t entirely grasp why I was doing it. Understanding the spiritual magnitude of taking public step to, not only profess, but to present your faith in Jesus to the world brought new visions of God’s reaction. It is a misrepresentation of righteousness to suggest God sits on an extravagant throne and says “Well done, good and faithful servant.” while looking down His nose at the moment of baptism. I propose a different response. At the moment you are baptized and your heart is purified; imagine Jesus on his knees, a tear of joy trickling down his cheek as he whispers, “Child, your hands are clean.”
My boys get into creating artwork with me on First Wednesdays. They get excited the morning of the service and start talking about what they’ll draw and what they’ll use. Here is my 7-year-old’s creation for tonight. He’s learned about the history of baptism in his break-out group on Sunday mornings, how one of the original methods involved pouring water over the head of the one being baptized, this method is the subject of his drawing. He explained to me this is Jesus baptizing someone this way with the sun setting behind. I must be honest, my first thought was Jesus baptizing someone using a water balloon! Either way, this is awesome and he made me proud.