The 4th floor can be a busy place, especially the nurse’s station. Patients pace up and down the halls holding on to the arm of an aide or IV pole, strengthening their legs and stretching their minds out from beyond the ivory-toned rooms. Lunch carts and doctors take the corners tightly in an effort skirt around the hard working and yet slow moving patients to make their appointed rounds. Visitors ask directions and room numbers, staff check in for schedules and across the hall from this hub of action hangs a painting.
Artwork in public places can often become stagnant for those who see the same image every day. There is nothing stagnant about this painting. You see, it is a moving piece, but you must pay attention to see the change. Each month the artist starts with a blank canvas. During the first days a sketch appears and begins to form an outline, and as the calendar progresses, so does the painting. Observers sees lines being formed into recognizable images and filled in with color. Details appear, images deepen with beautiful hues, and soon the painting is complete. Every thirty days starts with a sketch and ends with a completed painting. All of this artistic magic seems to take place overnight as the painting never seems to leave the wall. The month is filled with anticipatory waiting of the final results.
Advent is a time of waiting and it reminds me a lot of the hallway painting on the 4th floor. We are often waiting for something to start, end or shift. While sometimes waiting seems more tedious than difficult, other times it can be torturous. Our perspective on the situation changes depending on the event itself and the season of life we are experiencing. A four year old waiting for Christmas morning and a 60 year old waiting for an oncology appointment can both feel arduous to those experiencing the wait, for vastly different reasons.
The excited four year old only has to hold on until December 25th and the waiting is over. At least for the time. Not all of our waiting is so clean cut. There are some things, (and they are often the ones that feel most important,) that can have us waiting for what feels like a very long time. When we are in the middle of a long and taxing situation, we want to wake up to life being different. We want something to happen so the discomfort of waiting is over. The couple trying to conceive wants to be pregnant. The spouse desiring a healthy marriage is hopeful for change with every new suggestion from the therapist. Waiting to experience healed relationships, a partner to arrive in our lives, our finances to be stable, our bodies to become toned or healthy are all ideals we wait for which do not happen overnight. They each require a journey. Sometimes the road can feel long and unbearable.
Now back to the 4th floor painting. It is possible to walk by every day and not notice the gentle movement of this artistic endeavor. A beautiful piece of art is being created before the eyes, and in order to more fully appreciate it, one must pay attention. Each day strokes are added, colors filled, the form begins to take place. So it is for the time of waiting. There can be a gentle shift and we can miss it if we are looking for the finished product instead of at the process. The painting may or may not turn out as anticipated: perhaps the colors will be muted, when we anticipated brightness. The details may not arrive in the way or in the timing expected, nor in the order most comfortable. In fact, sometime the waiting time may feel quite stagnant. However often “daily details” are being added, gentle shifts occurring; there is movement, ever so subtle.
Over this next week, be attentive to your place of “waiting.” Observe lines sketched or colors added arriving in the form of emerging emotions, body sensations and what seem like random thoughts or memories that appear on your mind’s canvas – even the ones not understood. What is appearing, ever so slightly, can be the brushstroke that changes the painting of your life. After all, you are not a stagnant painting, but a masterpiece in process.
Create the week you would like to experience,