But these paintings follow a voyager who travels in a boat on a river through life's changing scenarios and settings. Here in this scene the surroundings are full of new life, potential growth, and the first light of dawn as the voyager rides the boat on the River of Life WITH an Angel. So, I'd love to walk you talk through them over the next couple of posts.
But this begs the question: What does this have to do with momentum?
Well, that's a very good question if I do say so myself!
I hear a lot, especially from middle school parents, how their children seem to have lost their spiritual hunger and interest. That when their child was in elementary, they were so engaged in church and in faith and were full of questions and had a remarkable and infectious faith. But before they knew it, somewhere around maybe 5th grade, something had changed. Out of nowhere, getting them to go to church was like pulling teeth. What had happened to little Alex? What had changed in him? He seemed to have lost faith, or at the very least his spiritual curiousity.
But, momentum was there in the not so distant past.
Yep, I remember being a kid. Honestly, it doesn't feel that long ago. But I was full of wonder and amazement at God's power and beauty. Yes, it lacked depth and nuance, but it was real. I remember leaving Sunday school one time after our teacher had told us a series of stories about Jesus healing all kinds of people: One was lame, another was bleeding, and a third was dead. What?!
But then to close out our time together, our amazing Sunday school teacher told us about how God had healed his wife. I was captivated! I was in awe and I left that room floating! I left full of excitement thinking, "Wow, Jesus can do anything! My God is unstoppable!"
I felt so special being a God follower.
But then something happened shortly after that. Out of nowhere I felt alone. God seemed far away, but the funny thing is that I hardly had noticed it. In fact, I'd say I didn't notice it until my 8th grade year in middle school. All spiritual momentum had left the building, like Elvis, gone without a trace.
There is something about that painting that just strikes me- I love watching that toddler! I love how bright eyed and full of wonder he is. I love how close God is with him and how all of creation seems to be singing songs of life and joy, pointing him to the creator and to the sustainer of life. The child is so receptive, so amazed at every little thing. The weight of life has not yet pressed upon his little shoulders. I want that little kid to just stay put. I want the angel to remain close. I feel like I want to holler out, "Don't change a thing - don't move! Just be still! Remain! Stay fastened! Fight to keep your wonder! Don't lose faith! Keep your mind alert!"
But we'll see that this isn't what happens. And even when I yell, the boy doesn't listen. He won't listen. As this kid gets older, just like me, he thinks he doesn't really need God's presence with him. He feels like he can steer that boat down that river on his own.
But we know better, don't we?
Maybe this kid, like so many of us, needs to find this out on his own. He's probably that kind of person - thick head, strong mind, rebellious... just like me. Someone who has to find out the hard stuff by making mistakes, picking himself back up, and realizing he cannot do this life alone. After struggle he discovers something vital, something amazing.
Maybe the first step to true and sustainable momentum is failure. Hmm. Maybe.