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Faces on Faith: Calm and hope in the turbulence of life

By Staff | Dec 6, 2013

The Rev. Dr.Ellen Sloan, Rector, St. Michael's and All Angels Episcopal Church. PHOTO PROVIDED.

The wind from the Gulf was so forceful today that waves were breaking hundreds of yards out from the shore. Even in our small pond behind the house, you’d think there was a current running like a river because of the power of the wind. Just love the way the egret stands firm on a branch facing the stiff breezes – claws holding fast, long beak forward, and feathers swooped back. Forceful wind and weather like this always reminds me of how fragile and not-in-control mankind is. Turbulent, out-of-control weather – as recently seen in the Philippines and now in Illinois – also gives me pause. In spite of our scientific and technological feats, when it comes to controlling the earth and its spatial environs, we might as well be Neanderthals. The incredible human brain has put Curiosity on Mars, and still controls a spacecraft that’s just exiting our solar system! However, the random forces of nature persist in their work. From our little planet we watch, we prepare as best we can, we reach out to help, and we pray for strength and tenacity to withstand what seems like chaotic forces in the atmosphere.

A couple of summers ago, my husband Ralph and I spent time at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg – a trip worth more than I ever imagined. My mindset of an abstract, often disturbing, and too surreal of an artist changed dramatically after spending time immersed in the life and paintings of Salvador Dali. How naive I had been to categorize him so quickly before experiencing the full essence of who he was and what he created! I mention this experience because one of his paintings impacted my greatly. My initial impression of it was of turbulence, chaos and despair…until I stood there for a very long time actually comprehending what Dali had created with his complex brush strokes.

The canvas was monopolized by a completely flooded landscape which flowed over the center of the whole painting. In the bottom right corner was a series of cube-like structures, which upon closer look were people pointing guns at each other. Both of these images – the flood and the weapons – signified much human destruction and loss. Above the flood and guns was a massive, swirling turbulence in the sky – painted with spiral shapes that Dali loved so much and that spoke of chaotic, stormy weather. As I gazed as this masterpiece, trying to understand it, I suddenly saw that the very faint gold and white spirals in the sky were actually in the form of a large human-like figure lying down. Much, much fainter and almost lost between the apparent turbulence and the flooded landscape, I then saw a long arm stretching down from this body toward the earth. And there, almost visually unintelligible and invisible, I saw the body of a man – completely collapsed and seemingly dead – being lifted up from the earth by the large arm.

It was spiritually breathtaking when I realized what I was seeing! Here was Salvador Dali’s depiction of God lifting up the beaten and broken body of Christ! It was Dali’s representation of life, death, and resurrection, and his message of hope for mankind in the midst of terrible physical, emotional, and spiritual struggle and turbulence. It reminded me yet again of our ultimate hope of new life, new birth, large and small resurrections – even in the midst of the turbulent storms of our lives. Dali’s message on canvas reminded me that God continues to be with us in all our suffering.