It’s Good, Even When It Isn’t Good

 In I Am Art

Not too long ago was the start of Holy Week, a time familiar to Christians all over the world. On Maundy Thursday we remember the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples when he washed their feet and commanded them to love one another. The following day, which we know as Good Friday, Jesus is sent to his death. Betrayed, as it has said in the scriptures, by one of his own disciples. This is not good for Jesus. One of the most popular questions I get on Good Friday from people who do not share my beliefs is, “If Jesus was hung on a cross and left to suffer, why would anyone call that good?”

At our I AM ART camps, we spend two days making beautiful pieces of art. Painted tiles, self-portraits, paintings, sculptures, etc. fill each of the rooms or locations where we work. Much like Jesus and the disciples, we gather together. However, instead of washing feet, we humble ourselves in other ways, like opening up and learning about each other’s stories. Instead of breaking bread, we eat mandarin oranges or cookies. Instead of being commanded to love one another, we live out that commandment. Though things are different at camp than they were on the night of the Last Supper, the volunteers know what Jesus knew: by the following morning, the conflict would come.

Jesus was crucified on a cross in the early hours of Good Friday. He suffered death and was buried, yet we call it good. Our little artists, who work hard for the first two days of camp, are instructed to destroy their art on the third day of camp, yet we hope that they can find enough trust in us to know that it is good.

Good Friday is good, not because of the violence and trauma that Jesus suffers, but because of what those events mean for us: redemption. Three days following his death, the tomb was found empty. The details of this event varies depending on which of the canonical gospels you read, but the overall story remains the same. We are redeemed, sins are forgiven, death is conquered. Unfortunately, it isn’t a story that fixes everything and makes the world perfect. If it had, then we wouldn’t be going to Guatemala on art camps to work with kids who have experienced some of the most difficult hardships. However, it is a story that inspires our curriculum.

On the third day of camp, we mourn our art and reflect on the things in our lives that cause conflict, but on the fourth and fifth day of camp, we start to understand why it is good. Death was not the end for Jesus and destruction isn’t the end for art. Tiles are repurposed, self-portraits recreated, paintings reimagined and the kids are renewed. In overcoming conflict and seeing purpose through pain, they learn about the beauty that God has created in them and for them. We continue to live out the Maundy Thursday commandment to love one another. We celebrate victories and relationships and joy.

The pain of the third day of camp is not gone, the pain we experience is not gone, but it is transformed.

The tomb is empty.

It is good.

He is Risen.

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