Of Mug Shots & Resurrection
If by some strange turn of events, you suddenly found yourself standing in the middle of my home office, you would probably find your eyes drawn to the many strange and seemingly disparate pieces of decor on my walls.
The truth is, I like to be surrounded by art and memorabilia that either serve to remind me of what brings me joy in life or inspires me in some way to keep moving forward.
I'd like to think that you would be amazed and curious about the meaning of all the things on display, but more than likely you'd probably let your gaze fall upon my collection of celebrity mug shots, and then you would most likely ask yourself, "What in the world is wrong with this guy?"
A collection of celebrity mug shots is an odd thing to put on display in one's office, I'll admit. I have post-arrest photos of Jim Morrison of the Doors, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and also a mug-shot-like photo of Elvis Presley.
The Elvis photo was purportedly taken for one of his many honorary law-enforcement credentials, but it fits in my collection somehow. Sue me, I really love me some Elvis.
The reason I love these photos so much, and why I chose to put them on the wall opposite my computer is complicated.
Each one of the artists on my wall was troubled and brilliant. They made mistakes, struggled with mental health, pushed the boundaries of their art, and also experienced moments of deep darkness along with incredible seasons of creativity, passion, and joy.
The photos speak to me about the artists' frailty and brilliance and how sometimes the best is often bought through great pain.
I read this quote the other day from Pema Chodron, who addressed the notion of what it means to be fully alive in all of the ebbs and flows of our life's journey:
To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man's land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.
One of the central messages of Christianity is that in order to experience the abundant life Jesus offered to his followers, we have to let go of our need for control, surrender the outcomes, and be willing to follow where Jesus might lead us.
It's a message that takes into account our own frailty, and the many ways that we fall flat on our faces, filled with doubt, regret, shame, and guilt. It's also a message that speaks of rising from our place on the ground then stumbling forward after Christ, filled with wonder, hope, and love.
There will always be moments in our lives when we feel lost, broken, ashamed, and disoriented by our circumstances. We often make mistakes, select poor choices, and do our best to self-destruct.
But what we can learn, if we are willing, is that nothing can keep us down for long. After all, we are following the One who embodied the eternal, divine rhythm of the universe---a rhythm of dying and rising.
Whatever your circumstances are today, I want you to know that even if you feel as though you are face down at the moment---you won't stay there. Nothing, not even death itself, has power over you.
So rise. You can't be kept down.
And then start stumbling after Jesus, which might be all that you can do. Take those first halting steps forward and know that even though you might be stumbling, you are stumbling in the right direction toward tomorrow, where Jesus waits for you.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.