Friday, June 19, 2009

The Gallery


I have heard that they have one in every city, although I have never seen one in mine. It is quite possibly because I have never really gone looking for it.

It stands in the heart of the city, comprising almost three city blocks. It’s an ordinary looking building, concrete in structure, no windows, and two stories tall. It looks like an industrial type building yet here it stands before me. The doors are massive, black structures that don’t seem to offer any signs of a person being welcome inside. The marquee above the doors in black letters spells out simply the words, “The Gallery”.

There is no place where you can walk up and see what’s inside, there are no flyers or bulletins outlining what the exhibit inside is. Just the plain block letters above the door. Listed in gray lettering, worn thin by the outside elements are the words Hours – Open every day, 24 hours.

Hmm I say to myself. I have never seen this before, never even read about it in the paper. Wonder just how long it’s been here. There are no lines waiting to get in, no one milling about outside the door except for me. Wondering if I should in fact take a peak at what’s inside. So I grasp the handle on the door expecting it to yield to my attempts to get inside, but it opens so easily and quietly, I have to catch myself from falling.

Inside I am blinded by the intense darkness from being outside in the summer sun too long. I shade my eyes and try to peer inside. I blink several times before my eyes finally begin to adjust to the lighting now before me.

Its dark for a gallery, I think to myself. I can see a small old man sitting at a circular desk in front of me. He is reading the paper but looks up when I walk towards him. He adjusts his glasses upon his nose and looks up at me as he puts his newspaper down. His hair is thinning on top but it still looks dark to me, not gray or white. I realize I must have his age wrong and smile at him. He just stares as if waiting for me to speak. I clear my throat since my words have left me.

“Is this gallery open for business?” I whisper to him, afraid I mustn’t disturb some of the people milling about.

He nods his head and gestures with his hand in a sweeping motion, an invitation for me to look and see for myself.

“Um, how much?” I ask as I pull my wallet from my purse.

He just shakes his head and motions for me to enter. He picks up his newspaper and begins to go back to his reading, smiling to himself as if amused by something I said.

It is odd standing here in this darkened gallery. There are no bright lights, no spotlights accenting certain pieces. It is a bit chilly though, as I believe all galleries are, so as not to damage the artwork. I find it odd however that this gallery feels different. It feels like you are being held by some cold icy hands as you begin to walk past the old man. I see him look at me, still smiling, and his paper still in his hands.

In the gallery, I notice are quite a few people. More than usual for a gallery of this type. It would appear that this was opening day, something announced in the papers, and thus the reason for so many people I see.

There are no benches or places to sit here in the gallery to reflect on a piece of art you might find interesting. Just walls and walls of pictures hung at eye level. There is little empty space on these walls, just mass amounts of pictures as far as the eye can see. They vary in size from the smallest canvas someone could paint on, the entire wall murals. I notice that each wall seems to have the same kind of layout, with pictures upon pictures cramming every nook and cranny of space.

This is different as most galleries have each piece highlighted by a light, framed with the artist’s name, so that each will stand out. Not here. They all are competing for the same attention.

I pull my jacket around me since the cold is still present and I wonder if they realize just how cold it is in here. I guess with so many people it’s hard to get the temperature right. There are people of all ages here, older people, men and women, small children and even a few rebellious looking teens. People look at you as you pass but there are no smiles or greetings of hello when you stand next to them.

I stop and begin to look at the pictures on the wall in front of me. Here the wall seems to stretch endlessly along the entire length of the building. Just open space filled with people standing about aimlessly looking at pictures and never moving. Just staring at the picture in front of them, which I find a bit odd.

The picture I am looking at is one of a man and woman hiding in the bushes. It appears as though they aren’t wearing any clothes but hiding in the bushes as if afraid to be seen. Their eyes look terrified and below them on the ground lies a red apple that has bites taken out of it. To the bottom right hand corner lies a snake coiled up, as if ready to strike. In smeared paint at the bottom lie the words, Adam and Eve.

Oh I smile as I look up. Interesting. I think to myself.

I move on the next painting, this one shows a boy standing in the field, with dark skies over head. It looks as if a storm is brewing above him and he is running for cover. In the grass below him is a club, covered in blood and a dirt mound that looks out of place here in the field. I squinted at the signature and read Cain.

I shake my head at this point and wonder if this is a Biblical art gallery. So I wander over across from where I am standing. Same variety of paintings, and yet these are a bit different.

I see a figure of a woman, lying in a bed, with no clothes on while a man is trying to comfort a woman standing in the doorway crying. The signature reads James. No date, just James. A man is standing in front of this picture just staring at it in silence. He is a much older man, but looks similar to the man in the painting.

I continue on. I see people mulling about in silence staring at pictures on the walls before them. A picture of a woman lying in a bed, while a doctor operates on her and a nurse is holding her arms down. In the background a container is sitting on the counter with something inside, but it’s hard to see what. The name on this painting is Wendy. A man sits on the floor with tears in his eyes looking at the painting. He doesn’t look up when I move past him.

Another painting shows a family sitting on the curb crying while a man is pounding a sign into the ground in front of there house, and boxes upon boxes sit on the ground outside. The sign reads, “Bank Foreclosure”. A woman is crying and wiping her eyes staring at this painting.

Another painting shows a teenager, sitting in her room, clothes strewn about, door closed and lights out. A handwritten note lies on the bed above her. She is holding a razor blade just above her wrists looking up at the ceiling crying. The name is Lisa. There is no one staring at this painting that looks like Lisa, just an older man and woman lying on the floor mesmerized by the painting in front of them.

I begin to realize what the content of this gallery is and who the people are. I begin to understand why there are so many pictures and why it’s so dark and cold inside. This gallery is filled with sadness, depression, loneliness, and despair. It’s dark because it lacks hope of something better.

I turn to leave at this point grabbing my coat and holding it even tighter. I feel almost panicked at this time and find it difficult to breathe even though the icy air continues to reach out to me. I reach the old man at the desk almost knocking him over.

He stops and smiles. “Leaving so soon?” he inquires, putting his paper down once more. “You have pictures here as well, did you see them?”

My eyes widen with horror and I push past him anxiously struggling to reach the doors that lead out of here.

It is there above the door I see a faded plaque. I have to squint my eyes in the darkness just to see it but it reads, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. ~ Matthew 12:20 NIV”

This strikes me as odd as it can only be read on the way out, not on the way in. It can only be read if your looking for it, not rushing to get out or simply walking with your head down as some people are.

The old man waves at them smiling, inviting them to “Come back soon, we are always open!”

I push against the black doors in front of me which don’t seem to want to let me out, but I say a small prayer softly to myself and find that they open quite easily.

I stand outside on the sidewalk. There are no people around. No cars parked in front of the building. Just the same plain old sign that reads, “The Gallery”. I know now what that dismal dark place is.

We are have all lived our lives up to this point as long as we are still among the living. We have grown over the years that have tried to beat us down and wear us thin. We have come through trying times and personal tragedies and wonder how is it possible to keep moving on? Some of us are down right paper thin right about now. Watch out or you may blow away during the next big gust of wind.

I am often amazed at just how much people can take before they snap. I mean really break, not just in two pieces but multiple ones. Splintered in fact! Like sawdust. Wow that sounds dismal doesn’t it?

Yet at some point in all of our lives, we have been at that breaking point. We have teetered on the edge of the abyss leading into the deepest, darkest pit of despair. Some have even fallen into those depths and have sat at the bottom, staring upwards into the pinpoint of light that lies way above them. At that light, there is hope. However, in the dark pit, with no possible way out, that hope is just as well lost with trying to escape the pit.

The pit can be called anything you wish. Divorce number three. Lose of a child you spent years waiting to have. Love affair of an unfaithful spouse. Marriage in ruins. Loss of a job you spent a lifetime in servitude for waiting for a promotion only to find a lay off instead. Loss of the family home, whether by flood, fire, or inability to make the payments. It can even be all of the above. Some not as severe as others or some much worse that what I have written above.

The picture it paints is one none of us would like to look at. It’s the place some of us have been. It’s the place others of us are in even now. We can only wish to burn that picture, to rip it to shreds, to bury it in a landfill lost for all time.

Yet it’s always there. The dismal painting of despair and depression. A painting of blackness that goes on forever and ever. A painting with no bright colors only black and shades of gray. We all have painted that picture for ourselves.

We have even had help from the enemy to not only put the paper on the easel but provide the paint and brushes to use. Not so encouraging words, but words of “You’ll never be good enough” “You’ll never amount to anything.” “Nothing good will ever come from you.” “You’re a failure.” “You are a loser, a liar, a fake.”

Tears always accompany us when we are painting. We begin to believe the lies in our head and the painting begins at a furious pace. Before long, we are done. In less time than it would take an accomplished artist, we have our painting complete. Ready to hang in the gallery. It’s a gallery so big but also one that no one wishes to visit. It’s always open. It never closes.

The gallery is always full of people who can’t seem to find the strength to leave. Some have even chained themselves there unable to move, unable to lift their heads.

It’s a sad place to be. No one ever wants to be there. No one ever wants to go back either.

But there is that plaque over the door that no one ever reads, and most simply wouldn’t understand it if they had read it. It reads, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. ~ Matthew 12:20 NIV”

God will never let anything happen to us that He can not bring us out of. If you have ever seen a wick on a candle that has been blown out, it smolders awhile. But God will not snuff it out.

That is your unique situation. God will never let your circumstances push you past the point of no return. There is always hope. There is always God. He is always there.

Our circumstances, our situations, our trials of life, or personal losses are all like the smoldering wick. Something has blown out our fire. Our will to go on. Our will to survive. Our will to even try.

God is waiting. He is right next to you, standing so close as to whisper your name. Are you listening?

He is the master painter. He can change how your picture is painted. What was once gloomy, dark and black, is now filled with so many brilliant colors of light that they shoot from the painting much like a Thomas Kincaid painting would. Only God’s is 100 times more beautiful.

We are always in it and so is He. He is there, right next to us, lifting us up if we have fallen. He is there to wrap His loving arms around us and comfort us in our pain and loss. He has been there. He has felt it all. The pain, the loss, the betrayals, the loss of fellowship, harsh words spoken in anger, the loss of friends and loved ones, the loss of a home, even temporarily.

Won’t you just let God remove your painting from that gallery and completely paint you a new one? A picture really is worth a thousand words, what will yours say?

13 comments:

ouizard said...

Very long post, but worth reading. You write very well. =)

Heart2Heart said...

ouizard,

Thanks for your compliments. I tossed and turned last night, but under God's compelling argument I had to post this story. It was much shorter, but God wanted the impact felt so He showed me what and how to write it.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Prairie Girl said...

An inspired post to be sure - thank you friend, for listening and obeying.

It is always a blessing to visit your site!

RCUBEs said...

"Creepy" was what came to mind at first. But this is the best [for now :)] among your posts sister! Have a great weekend sister Kat! And may the Lord continue to reveal His divine wisdom through you. Love and blessings.

skoots1mom said...

this reminded me of the feelings i had in one of our local museums recently while looking through all of the treasures from King Tut's tomb...i was walking through statues, furniture, jewelry, crowns, artwork from the homes of the pharoahs...who had one-on-one discussions with Moses!! It gave me chills...and it was a bridge of reality from then to now making me feel so blessed to be seeing it in person. I'll remember your God-given insight each time I think of that now...wow!! thank you!

Sarah Dawn said...

Kat, What can I say, if only I could paint a picture to share with you how your writing touched me today. May all the paintings of my life be painted with the brushstrokes of grace and framed by His love.

A work in progress by the Master Painter,
Sarah Dawn

girlinaglasshouse said...

I thought this was a dream (was it?) and then I saw it was a wonderful short story. It arrested me (despite the fact that I am reading it at 2:30 a.m.). Having just posted about hope on my blog, this was the flip side.

Thank you for being faithful, despite the tossing and turning!

Andrea said...

Powerful post!!

Please stop by arise 2 write..I have something for you.

Blessings, andrea

~ Being Woven said...

Yes, indeed, POWERFUL! ARRESTING! May I add TINGLING and MOVING! God leads us to places, websites, people where He is waiting for us and has lessons, love, and comfort. Thank you. ~ linda

Yolanda said...

Love and hugs!

Leslie said...

I think I was more than half way through before I realized it was a story. I kept thinking, "Is that creepy man at the front desk for real?" Very thought provoking and God inspired!

Daveda said...

I found myself thinking "did she really stumble upon such a gallery as this?"

The sad part is that many live in this gallery every day and don't even realize it. Looking at their situations and disappointments, as the end of the story.

But, God...good, wonderful, glorious God, repainted our pictures with Jesus.

Good post.

Crown of Beauty said...

What a post, Kat! For a while I thought you were sharing about a real gallery that you entered. It was like a subtle horror story... but you have really made a very striking point.

And the verse you quoted is one of my favorites.

Thank you for taking time to write this!