Art, so often for me, helps me access, grab hold of, and integrate experiences in life. I painted the first iteration of this piece, “Offering,” several years ago, but found myself circling back to the image in recent months as I both read the book and watched the movie, “The Letters” about Mother Teresa.
New and significant soul terrain opened up for me through the book and movie, even as they sent me spiraling back in time. I returned to a watershed moment in my life in 2001, when I experienced the incredible privilege of attending a service to honor the vows of new Missionary of Charity postulates. On that day in Nairobi, Kenya, I shared a bench in the simple but elegant cathedral with children from the Mother Teresa orphanage; and I held a baby they knew well, my son, whom we were adopting from the home. It’s an experience that changed my life. So, it’s not a surprise, I suppose, that I keep circling back, even a decade later, painting the same image over and over in attempts to break it down into pieces my heart and mind can comprehend.
For now, at least, I think I am ready to lay this particular image to rest with the above final version of “Offering.”
But I also eagerly anticipate a new opportunity in the next couple months. I’m working on a prose piece for the non-profit arts group Flourish, based in Colorado Springs, to which a dance will be choreographed and presented in June. I’ve never done anything like this, and so there will be a steep learning curve. But the dancer happens to be a dear long-time friend with whom I served for several weeks in 2002 at the same Mother Teresa home from which we adopted our son and later our daughter . The theme for the prose/dance piece is “Blessed are the peacemakers;” and the ideas and imagery bursting into my heart are from that long ago, watershed day when I heard the priest say: “Your lives are like this rose. You will be passed from person to person. Like the rose, you will become ragged and spent. Your very lives will be your offering. Even so, you will spread hope, beauty (and peace) to many.”
And, so, as I spiral along in this journey, one last word about “Offering”: it is, of course, created in honor of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, but also dedicated to all those who carry tiny, subversive flames in their hearts, sparks too hot to keep. For those with an insufferable ache in their bones, who dare to either go down in flames or light a bonfire for the masses. For those for whom the visible outcome of their lives weighs as inconsequential compared to the call, a call that scorches every prior experience: the call to love a suffering world with the Heart of God. A flame that burns eternal.
For those whose lives are like a rose, passed from hand-to-hand, becoming ragged and spent, but leaving the fragrance of beauty and hope wherever they go. For those for whom their very lives are their offering.