Transfigurations

Sidewalk Chalk Flood 2009, another Rob Bliss Urban Experiment in downtown Grand Rapids

I walked by the Agape Center on Genesee Street today, where the kids have decorated every square inch of sidewalk on the block with chalk.  The way the colors are jumbled together makes the sidewalk look like a chaotic rainbow.

As one might expect, there are various images depicting a combination of real-life scenes and abstract symbols.  One can see crosses, houses, flowers, even a shark!  Some have messages written on them (“Room 8 Rocks!”) while others let the images speak for themselves.  The collective effect is that one stretch of concrete along Genesee Street outside the old St. Francis de Sales School is now radiant with the glory of creative outburst.

The scene reminds me of the story of the Transfiguration, where Christ ascends Mt. Tabor with his disciples and temporarily radiates the brilliance that resides within him.  For just a moment, ordinary flesh and clothing were, in the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, “charged with the grandeur of God”.

But this brilliant dust is sure to be washed away by some combination of footsteps and rain and we, like the disciples who had to walk back down the mountain to the harsh reality of their ministry, must find a way to draw strength from the gift of this moment.

As I was admiring our freshly transfigured sidewalk, I was approached by a woman who had been one of my clients at the Addiction Crisis Center.  Since finishing that program, she has continued in her recovery and now works for another service organization, helping others who now sit where she sat only a few years ago.  Brighter than the dust beneath our feet, which is soon to disappear, her sober life shines on as an ongoing transfiguration, reflecting the eternal glory that surrounds us always, even if we can only see it for a moment.

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