There’s this series of photographs taken of four sisters over forty years. It’s a stunning work of art.
It begins with defiance and youthful energy written all over the faces of four young women. The first photograph is a breathtaking etching of attitude. Four sisters, on the cusp of their life, choices and consequences all before them. The horizon is wide and life is for the taking.
It ends four decades later with the same women, but now there is a softness in their eye, a tenderness around their jaw, a raw beauty that hurts while it draws you in and gives you peace. When I study these pictures it is not the young four sisters but rather the older four that give me a sense of hope for the future.
This series of photographs is a masterpiece of art.
When we are young (in years or in maturity) we have a tendency to think and act in terms of choice and consequence; if you do this (choice) then that will need to happen (consequence). As we mature, we realize that it is a little more complex than that. Two people can look at the exact same event and interpret it and respond to it in very different ways. A mom who removes a sharp object from her two year old sees averted danger; her toddler sees injustice. Parents who struggle through the hard times in their marriage and stick at it sees family commitment; their teenage child sees weakness.
Life demands choice and consequence. If you made a good choice, the outcome is favorable. If you chose poorly, the outcome can hurt badly. This is true, but it is right here that life and grace collide.
Grace says you are not what you did on your worst day.
Grace says that regardless of your failures and your inadequacies you have value and you add value. Grace says that every bad choice can be redeemed.
What has this got to do with a bunch of photos taken over a forty-year period? Everything. The passage of time etched on the face of each of the women speaks loudly of life and lessons and consequence. Yet, to me, it also whispers of understanding and empathy and of a gentle grace.
Grace that soothes, grace that redeems, grace that embraces you and that, regardless of your struggles, still accepts you and values you.
Grace is a majestic force for change. But, this one thing about grace I have learnt – only those who have first received it can give it away. Those who have felt the healing touch of forgiving grace can draw from this well of mercy, can recognize the frail humanity of others and can gladly and freely offer redeeming grace to others.
Grace is the ultimate masterpiece in the art of living.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed on me was not in vain; … yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10