The road to recovery following my knee surgery was rough, as you may have read. The issue was not so much my knee (although it still isn’t 100%) as it was other complications. The long and the short of the story was that I spent over two months going back and forth between my bed and the couch with not much else in between.
When I recently started to feel better, I felt this tremendous desire to piece life back together. My understanding was that life, in that season, had been broken and fragmented and now the very best thing was to try to fix it.
Piece it back together. The words were almost palpable, visible, like a branding or watermark over the images of my life.
Piece it back together.
My mission: Restore order.
Spend better time with the kids.
Catch up on piles of work.
Start to exercise again.
Make every moment count.
Put it back together again.
So, I asked Jesus how. How do we piece it back together again?
His response stopped me in my tracks: “It was never broken.”
What do you mean, it was never broken? Weren’t you there? It felt very broken, with so many things inverted and out of place like a puzzle scattered on the table with no box top to guide you.
So many pieces.
“It was a whole picture,” he said. “Just not the one you wanted.”
Then, swiftly and quietly, the image of E. Munch’s The Scream:
It wasn’t broken. It was a complete picture. Just one picture in a series.
It wasn’t broken after all; it was whole. A whole searing image of enduring pain. One we love and hate. We love it because it captivates, validates, swirls with humanity. We hate it when it is our own mouth dropped open, dark sounds spilling out through our hands as if we were trying to block the opening but somehow can’t maneouver them to a right position of silence.
We are torqued and skeletal with pain. While the dark river threatens to sweep us off the page, others walk by unhearing, unbent, toward bright skies.
When we are in The Scream, we feel like our feet our stuck to the bridge, our hands glued to our face. We are unmoving. Just plain stuck. Frozen. Too tired to do anything but let our insides spill out in lament.
And I want to rearrange the image. Ease up the corners of the open mouth into a smile, hands clapped to cheeks in wonder. Swap out the turbulent sky for a fiery sunset, the kind that ignites inspiration. I’d move the people closer together and soften the movement implied in the environment. Maybe I’d add a few brush strokes that suggest trees or blossoms—something alive.
Because I don’t like to equate hard with whole.
But what if the challenge is to view hard as whole, as passing and limited? What if the hard image is merely one contained image in a larger body of work? What we allow for a full range of human emotion in the gallery of what we consider beautiful or at least meaningful?
If we stop and pause to consider the significance of what currently frames us instead of desperately trying to unstick our hands and feet to run to the next canvas, we might find something redemptive after all.
Do you agree?