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..: Secret Trophies

One of my only regrets is that so many of the wonderful times in my life have never been documented. Those times include that one time the Pedals were at that one church, and almost every day at Media Revolution. All around me, miracles and happy times. Recently, kj and I had the chance to share at our church, at the final service of a series on Art. We both shared, me about the picture below, and kj about the box in the picture. The sound guy had asked if it was ok for us to be recorded to tape. I said ok. As it turns out, the tape didn't record us. Like we're vampires, sort of. So there went another beautiful moment. They keep passing by like that.

Here's what I said that day.


In 1996, it was the second year at my first full time job out of college. It was for a dreary company in the legal industry, and every day I thought about how I could escape. During those daydream sessions, I would often reflect on my life and project forward about what it would look like if I never changed, and things just kept going the way they did. The way I was. One afternoon, frustrated, I drew this picture. I started first with the title, "Fragile". In the picture, i drew an androgenous, weeping figure. i wanted to express grief, deeper than i've ever experienced. the figure weeps at the foot of an empty bird cage. in my life, pet birds were a source of extreme guilt for me. when i was young, i had many birds, and i never really never took very good care of them. i thought i was awful, and i could never see a pet bird without guilt, without feeling bad. the drawing started with the figure, a dark line emphasizes the bent posture, a sort of near brokenness. the picture displays guilt over not really the birds, for they were only a metaphor for my negligence in my youth. negligence over relationships with God, my family and people. all of these relationships, especially the ones with people, were fragile. these relationships, like little pet birds, needed my attention, needed me to be disciplined, needed me to be there.

I drew and drew. there are times that as an artist you feel stuck, you just can't get anything out. and then there are those times where you're frantic, and you can't get the pencil to move as fast as the pictures come, and you're afraid if you don't hurry, the image will seep away from your brain. this is one of those for me. i think i drew this in about 3 minutes.

when i was done, i added a small black box in the corner. i wanted to point it out, because kj will talk about it today too. it was the last thing she had given me, and i hadn't seen her in years. we parted sourly to say the least, and i knew that of all people, i was the most negligent in my relationship with her while we were in college. the cage, the box, they were my secret trophies of my guilt.

so, i drew this picture in 1996. then, like most of my pictures, i put it away in some manilla folder, and forgot about it. the image had served its purpose. get the emotion out, out on paper, like some sort of flat catharsis. i felt better the rest of the day. i put the picture away for a long time.

sometime between then and now, i don't remember when, i gave karen a copy of this picture. i think because it had the little black box in it.

at the start of this year, kj's pet bird Sam died. Sam was a special bird that kj had hand-fed since he was an ugly baby cockatiel. when he passed away, Sam was a handsome, well fed and affectionate bird. His loss hit kj very hard.

we travelled to kj's parent's house to bury Sam. kj's parents had found a nice tin to bury him in, and had even went ahead and dug the hole in the backyard. as kj said goodbye to sam, she knelt and wept. she wept harder than i've ever seen her cry, like she was feeling so much pain i did not see. the entire family stayed with her, and she cried for a long time, kneeling there on the floor, kneeling over Sam.

as we drove home, i told kj about the pet birds i had in the past, and why the thought of them brought me so much guilt. i was negligent, i told her. i felt guilt, extreme guilt. and now, seeing pet birds, especially dead ones, brought to me all the guilt of my past. she told me how glad she was that i had been there for sam's funeral.

at the start of this month, about the time that the art series began at esc, kj found this picture. this one, the one i called Fragile. she and i made the startling discovery that this picture, the one i had drawn in 1996, was a strange sort of premonition of Sam's funeral. a bent, greiving figure, weeping over a bird. we were astonished.

i thought about the picture, realizing that somehow, i did not feel the same kind of guilt i used to. not just about birds, but about the negligence of my past. i've been thinking about why that is.

i think it's because of this second chance i've been given. i've been given the opportunity to be there for kj, to be there at sam's funeral, when she needed me the most. kj needed my attention, needed me to be disciplined, needed me to be there. and this time, she had my attention, i was more mature, and i was there for her. kj's father once told me that "everyone deserves a second chance." i don't think that's necessarily true, but i'm sure glad i got one.

this picture represents to me now a season of healing in my life. healing from the guilt i felt from the negligence of my youth. for some people, healing occurs in a moment, instantly. some healing takes years, maybe a lifetime. sometimes, it takes so long, by the time we are healed, we forget the illness. God has been healing me, and if it weren't for this picture, i would have forgotten the illness.
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