Last week, God gifted me with an opportunity to attend the SING! 2019 conference in Nashville, TN. (When I say, “God gifted,” I literally mean, Brian’s grandmother mentioned to her church members one week before the conference that I had spoken about how much they would enjoy that conference and I would like to go sometime. The next day, they invited me to go in the place of one who had just said she could not go - hotel and conference already paid. A gift!). Not only did I enjoy my new friends, but I highly enjoyed singing hymns acapella in the acoustics of the Grand Ole Opry. The harmonies were so full and rich!
However, the singing at the SING! conference was not my greatest takeaway! It was found in a 45 minute breakout session entitled, “Christianity, Art, and Culture” with an Irish artist and sculptor named Ross Wilson - (http://rosswilsonartist.com.). Writing as fiercely as possible, I tried to capture so many great quotes that he shared:
“Art is a reflection of God’s creativity, and evidence that we are made in the image of God.” —Francis Schaeffer
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” - Simone Weil
“Tradition is the democracy of the dead.” GK Chesterton
“Draw attention beyond the moment.”
“The love of Christ permeates every spectrum of life.”
“Knowledge has been reduced to information.”
“God doesn’t want something from us, He wants us.”
All of these are worth contemplation and application, but the story of CS Lewis, a 10-year-old named Anne, and “The Searcher” is one that has stuck with me.
Ross Wilson discovered that CS Lewis had written a letter to a young girl in response to a letter she had sent him. She had been reading The Silver Chair and asked her mother about Aslan having to give up his life for the life of others, as she didn’t understand. Her mother told her to write the author and asked, so she did! In what Ross Wilson calls a moment of “grace exchange,” CS Lewis replied to her letter. He took 10-15 minutes to answer the letter of a young girl. When the girl received the response from Lewis, she was awestruck and humbled and her life was changed!
Wilson found the young girl many years later and she showed the letter to him. It was worn, as she had carried it in her pocket everyday for two years after she received it. That letter had changed her life and brought her to faith in Jesus, as Lewis clearly explained the comparison between Aslan and Jesus. What an exchange of grace that Lewis took time to answer the inquiry of a little girl!
Wilson was impacted by this story, and to commemorate Lewis, created “The Searcher,” which can be found in a square in Belfast. On the back of the wardrobe, Anne’s response from CS Lewis is cast in metal and shown for all to view. Lovely. https://www.bing.com/maps?q=The+Searcher+in+belfast&go=Search&qs=n&form=QBRE&sp=-1&pq=the+searcher+in+belfast&sc=0-23&sk=&cvid=DBCCD2D7185C42C8AAF79579B290743C
I confess that my “grace exchange” is so often crowded out by my own self focus - what I have to do, what I have to get finished, where I have to go, who has hurt me. In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, he writes,
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (1:17-19a)”
The Enemy loves to turn us inward and keep our focus on ourselves, but in moments of the Spirit’s grace exchange, He offers to me His wisdom and revelation, and enlightens the eyes of my heart to those around me - so much more beautiful!
And so, for you and for me, I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be opened to draw our attention beyond the moment, so that the love of Christ may permeate every spectrum of our lives. We never know when a simple moment of grace exchange will be the difference.