We are all captive. Every one of us.
Do we know it?
Actually, the evidence is plain…
As the rain and snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth (adamah)
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the
sower and bread for the
so is my word that goes out from
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for
which I sent it. (1.)
We are captive to God’s purpose. Grounded in his purpose. From the beginning.
Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness…’ (2.)
He is not alone in this act. Who is with him when he says, “Let us make man in our own image…?”
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (3.)
First, we are captive to God’s purpose, then we become captive to His own image.
So what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so men are without excuse. (4.)
Evidence of our captive image has been made plain.
And who is with God in this creative act? God’s son, before his betrayal, says to his father,
I am praying not only for these disciples, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. (5.)…and that you love them as much as you love me. (6.)
How can we resist that? We are created in God’s own image; planned together with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; given authority in and through all their creation; plainly set out for our understanding; clearly showing us the invisible qualities of God’s eternal power and divine nature; given over in God’s DNA, to us, from the beginning; and loves us as much as his only son!
Then, toward the end of the prayer…
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (7.)
Evidence of captive love.
Still, we all fall short of the reality. So, if we desire to overcome the short falls of our own nature, and reenter the given nature of our divine purpose, which we were born into, we must begin again, every day, as God provides the way, and humbly return to His call of love. Humble, literally means “on the ground” from humus “earth.”
Captive. Grounded. Then taken captive. Again and again. And do we know it?
Again, so many words serve as stumbling blocks to our understanding. Some are even toxic, like God, man (being gender specific), captive, purpose; because they lead into dialogs we’d rather not have. From our familiar lexicons we choose to bring meaning into our own spheres of influence, using words that would work in our favor. Words that influence. And listening to the words of others, however, we are careful to avoid contagious words that might carry a virus. Words of influenza. Or, we develop allergies to the words that represent attitudes and beliefs we don’t agree with. Often misunderstood words. Why? Because we don’t find the right words to engage our path of thinking. Not that we can’t, but we don’t; and instead, we settle for words that begin to default in meaning because of some agreements made with ourselves along the way. Agreements set upon through partial acceptance of other beliefs, and calling them our own.
Our thoughts emerge as images at first. Words follow. We attempt to express levels of perception with words, but we don’t often give it our best. Artists, for lack of a better term, are the purveyors of images. They dwell on those emergent thoughts that appear in our thinking. If you agree that the unseen nature of our thoughts is another realm, before it is spoken, imbued with sensibilities and attitudes, laced to our beliefs, then we should be able to express the images, first. Visually. Yet, as we all know, that is a complicated task. This is sometimes called “art.” How does one express an attitude or belief? In speaking, our opinions inadvertently express these. Sensibility to attitudes and beliefs has as much to do with to do with communicating that unseen realm as the words we use to describe the thoughts. In other words, we think in pictures and sense their meanings according to our respective experiences. These experiences are driven by memories, attached to emotions. They have colors and sounds and smells. We can taste and feel them on some level of experience. This is the language of art.
This inner reality is the heart of aesthetics, and with it comes a theology. Some would make it a theology of aesthetics. It reaches the heights and plumbs the depths of our nature. We inherited it. We are captive to what is divine in it. Transcending our exterior reality and transformed by our interior reality is what makes us a little lower than the angels. Our imagination is evidence of the image in which we are made. And, we are free to move our thoughts and dreams in ways that give us a taste of original creation. Original. Can only come from God. This deep place of love is where artists draw their strength, attend to their gift and share what they have learned. Although, it is not for their purpose, alone.
The role of the artist is to help expand these terms of interior and exterior reality and connect with others in ways that validates communication between people. Ideas and art objects are vehicles for this but so are acts of creativity. If we can get past the habits of understanding art on merely a cursive level and think beyond conventional portrayals of reality, we might grow to understand art in more expanded terms. Consider the words of contemporary artist, Piero Golia:
In the past, artists (expanded the terms of reality) by creating images, but more recently there’s been a shift beyond and outside the limitations of a picture narrative, a continuum that creates a story that fluidly shifts through time and space – a legend that in each retelling, adds increasing importance, often enlarging and changing in the process. These days, artists have expanded the possibilities of interacting with reality, not just as a one-to-one experience, like in the relationship between the art object and the solitary viewer, but acting directly on reality, interacting with the public as a community experience. This brings the interaction to a higher level, building a communal narrative. (8.)
Today, in our postmodern era, we are more given to ask how a narrative affects community, and then how it affects an individual. Asking questions about how we see ourselves will always expand our understanding of reality and our self-image, but recognizing and acknowledging our divine inheritance, evidenced by the image in which we are created, greatly expands the terms of that understanding; even while we are considering the validity of the terms we use. Seeking truth in that endeavor is still relevant in our world today, but the terms of agreement have become displaced in the process. We are facing a generation of seekers who operate in a cloud of unknowing, and yet, for all the divisive language surrounding dialog and discourse in our world, the search for truth has not disappeared. Yet, it has been diminished. We’ve lost the center that holds that truth together. The role of the artist, invested in faith and living out God’s promises, needs to expand the terms of what has always been God’s reality for us. Within God’s one reality, creation is fluid, alive and shifts at its core with the living God, in his continuum of time and space, interacting with his creative narrative. And, in each retelling, this adds increasing importance, enlarging and changing in the process, because creativity, God’s creativity, comes from truly creative and loving action. The source never changes and anything truly creative points to that evidence, even if we don’t recognize it, or even if we appropriate it for ourselves.
There is a kind of lucid ceremony surrounding creativity, imbued with action that becomes ritualistic in its nature. Something new is happening when that occurs. It contains within it a spark of the divine. Our intended purpose is stirring. Within our spirit, and the Spirit that dwells in us, comes this evidence, reminding us who we are, to whom we belong, to whose image we carry, to the love that abides in us and the desire to share it. It’s the heart of our purpose, the heart of our image, the heart of our evidence, the heart of our love.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (8)
And he, Christ, the image of the invisible God, is also our image. He’s captured our image in his own. In our created image he came into the midst of all creation. He testified to the truth and made it plain. As predicted by Isaiah and confirmed by Paul. Imagination (imaginatio), creativity and the purpose for which we are intended, like the rain and the snow that comes down from heaven, will accomplish what God desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it. Watering the ground (adamah), making it bud and flourish so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, is an act that becomes a foretaste of the feast to come. When we believe God’s word, that goes out from his mouth, and does not return empty, but achieves the purpose for which he sent it, we will see his promise fulfilled and share in creating, together with God, in an everlasting creative reunion. If it were not so, he would have told us. He has no other plan.
1.) Isaiah 55:10-11 (NIV) emphasis mine; 2.) Genesis 1: 26a (ibid); 3.) Genesis 1: 27 (ibid); 4.)Romans 1:19-20 (ibid); 5.) John 17:20, 21 (NLT); 6.) John 17: 23b (ibid); 7.) John 17:24 (ibid); 8.) Piero Golia, Akademie X: Lessons in Art + Life, page 119, London, Phaidon Press Limited 2015; 9.) Colossians 1: 16, 17 (NIV)
Further readings at www.stevenesheim.com: Click on Blog for www.writeofpassageblog.com. to read The Veil is Removed, in two parts, revealing the background for the assemblage featured in “Adamah” showing February 5-29 at Gallery EDIT in Richmond, Virginia.