Monday, February 24, 2014

Do It Yourself

One of the things I've learned about myself recently is that I love finding things in everyday life that lead me to contemplation but ultimately point right back to everyday life. Like most people, I like to escape. But I don't simply escape for the sake of leaving. For me, the attractive part of escaping is being stronger when I'm present.

This part of me showed up a few weeks ago in the middle of Wroclaw, Poland - a city of over 700,000 people. The group I was with had the opportunity to sight-see in the old town. When I learned that Wroclaw was the birthplace of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I immediately made up my mind to do whatever I could to see whatever it was that commemorated his life.

When I got there though, I found myself frustrated by the fact that so many others were also interested in the Bonhoeffer Memorial. So, staying in the vicinity, I walked around a bit, keeping my eye on the memorial but also looking for other things that might catch my attention. Then I saw this:

"Do it yourself". 

It was enough to disturb my frustration over the crowd in front of the memorial. And it took me away for a few minutes. What was it, a command? A suggestion? An invitation?

Then it was time to get back to the bus. Another meeting to attend. This time we were to talk about how we can reach children in each European country. What paperwork do we have to complete? Where will the next camp take place? A real life conference, based upon the very event I was being reminded of, couldn't have seemed more foreign to me as these thoughts and questions penetrated my mind. 

But as I continually contemplated "doing it myself", I realized the irony is that the message of this piece of art contradicts the message of the cross. Not that the art was "wrong". I don't think we can make that sort of distinction with anything that leads us to critically examine our faith. Rather, the suggestion that I, the observer can do anything myself, is leading me away from the heart of the biblical message.  

This biblical truth has real life implications. The fact that I am only justified by Jesus' sacrifice reminds me that I cannot  - nor need not  - justify myself. What a freeing thought!  I left Wroclaw thankful that I don't have to do it myself. 

How would you interpret this piece of art?