Friday, November 03, 2006

drawing out

I'm working on a drawing for a friend I write to who is in prison. It has taken me some time to get started. The picture is of this man and his parents on a visitation day. It's a picture that could be described as really sweet and endearing, minus the orange jump suit. It's good enough to use as photo reference for a portrait drawing. The expressions on each face are very genuine-that is apparent and rather amazing to me given the circumstances under which the photo was taken. I guess that's why it is hard for me to get started. I feel like I'm a peeping Tom in a way, as though my presence is an intrusion into a poignant and private moment, certainly one of the few these people have shared as a family while their son is in prison. He's from the UK, so I'm sure visits are even fewer and further between that a family living in the same state, let alone the same country.

There is a further element in this story. I did not expect to receive the photo at all. It's like the very fact that my friend parted with this precious keepsake for the purpose of allowing me to see it and actually do a drawing represents a leap in the relationship. Let me be frank (even though I'm a girl)...I sincerely do not understand how people can play with an intimate relationship. Maybe for men this is easier, being that they are more physically than emotionally motivated. It is as uncomfortable for me to share truthfully as it is to think about sex. Both are equally difficult territory because each thing represents a letting down of a person's guard, an exposing and leaving unprotected the very essence of the self, for each person. Even with wrong motives such an act or exchange leaves each participant so vulnerable they cannot remain unchanged no matter how hardened the heart may be. It is my feeling that at least sexual immorality is at an all-time high, not because suddenly everyone has become lust-hungry maniacs, but because there is such a desire for a human being to known and exposed for what they are. We are repelled by the idea of needing other humans so desperately, but push down the internal walls because we cannot remain alone and be well. I'm not suggesting living immorally, only observing that a world which keeps us so isolated is not normal. I forget who made the statement to the effect that every man knocking on the door of a brothel is searching for God.

I feel the same way sharing personal things in a mixed group, even though they are Christian people. It leaves me feeling weak as sure as I am that everyone respects me deeply and would never, ever take advantage. I know sharing with other people is healthy and healing AND necessary. But I'm back to the picture. I am entrusted with the charge of this intimate moment, and to do the job I must I have to enter into that trust and into the moment with this family and with my friend no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel. Love does that sometimes. I guess I think of the old Simon and Garfunkel song so often quoted, "A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries". That is not the way we were designed. We're flesh. The scripture says God takes away our stony heart and gives us a heart of flesh. Flesh bleeds, flesh feels pain. This is not an accident, it is a thing to be embraced. So I pick up my charcoal and draw myself into my friend's joy and pain.


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