As I was writing yesterday about God keeping all safe, I was thinking,
what about those whose safety is compromised by the actions of others. God may keep us safe, but sometimes others crash those walls down. What about that.
Sometimes it seems so easy to say, “Don’t worry, God will look after you”, so trite and simplistic. Yet in truth, God is always there trying to wrap his arms around everyone. But some people won’t be held, and in their rebellion, their escaping, they cause harm to others.
So that was why it was timely to be reminded by Stephen Cottrell that most of the paintings in this series were painted during the first few years of the Second World War (p83). So Spencer was not painting in a Utopian vacuum. He was fully aware of the atrocities life can throw up. He had known for himself The Wilderness.
Yet this picture is painted later, in 1954. It could be seen as a “there, there”, as a parent puts its arms around a child after it has been hurt. Letting it know that they are there and it’s ok.
Spencer has been through the war, been through his personal wilderness, and his response is this painting. Highlighting God’s care, love and shelter.
Indeed Jesus himself says these words,
Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people have killed the prophets and have stoned the messengers who were sent to you. I have often wanted to gather your people, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you wouldn’t let me. (Matthew 23:37)
knowing full well what is to come, what is about to happen to him. God’s love and care are not outside of pain or unaware of its existence. It comes from right within all that life can throw – hatred, mistreatment, rejection… Jesus knew it all and knew God’s care and support.
To me, that is the true value of all Jesus has to say. He is not pontificating from on high, but has been involved in the real mess of the world, and his word comes from that experience and knowledge. Jesus’ words are not empty platitudes, but comfort born out of shared experience.
And that makes all the difference.
These thoughts are reflecting on Stanley Spencer’s painting The Hen (seen here).
I’m not necessarily going to blog every day on it, just when something leaps out at me – and they will be thoughts rather than full blog posts