Struggling Faith is a visual meditation that uses abstract imagery to engage with Genesis 22 to 34. Our aim was to use the sights and sounds of summer to subtly draw the viewer into reflecting upon the necessity of struggling for faith.
There is a story told about a little boy watching a chrysalis struggle to be a butterfly. As he watched he took pity on the creature and would have tried to cut it free, but for his mother who prevented him. She explained that the struggle was all part of the growth of the butterfly. Without the struggle the butterfly would be unable to fly. Without the struggle we can’t live our lives of faith.
Struggling Faith highlights the biblical idea that quite often when God makes promises, he also gives symbols to inspire us to continue in the struggle, for it is all part of the awakening and forming of our spiritual growth.
The symbols become the reminders of God’s love and grace even when we get our lives entangled and in a knot. Visual symbols connect with us at a different level of understanding. Circumcision for Abraham was a continual reminder that God would prosper his seed, as baptism through water was for the apostle Peter, speaking in the book of Acts, to the crowd a Pentecost saying, that the promise was to their children and to ‘all who are far off’ (see Acts 2: 39).
From the pillar of fire that lead the people of God through the wilderness experience, to the breaking of bread that caused the disciples on the Emmaus road to recognise Jesus, it can be plainly seen - the visual plays an important part in conveying the story of reconciliation, forgiveness, and redemption in the scriptures.
In our Daily Worship this month we have come across stories that can only be described as painful, and at times horrific, centred around three main characters, three generations of the same family: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They show the inner turmoil and struggle of a heart searching for more than prosperity. We discover people like ourselves, in search of a future, yet in the process tying knots in their lives that create tension and conflict.
Abraham is singled out to reveal that human beings can have a meaningful relationship with God. Abraham has no church building in which to encounter God. He has no words of scripture, no laws of Moses to follow, but he has a heart in search of God - only to discover God has been in search of him, making him a promise that he will be a blessing to all mankind.
There is much that we who have been brought up within the confines of western Christianity need to learn about the nature of grace. The Spirit of God is not bound by our religious rules and traditions. Remember Jesus once said ‘…for whoever is not against you is for you’ (See Luke 9.50).
The story of Abraham and Issac is a fascinating one. The writer of scripture drops in an interesting phrase, when Abraham is being questioned by Isaac regarding the sacrifice. He replies,“God himself will provide the lamb for the sacrifice.” Here is an example of Abraham thinking one thing, “Does God really want me to sacrifice my son?”, and believing another, that God himself will provide the way of escape.
This idea is repeated again in Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians where he tells his readers ‘God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape.’ (1 Corinthians 10.13) These stories begin to lay the foundation of the Christian doctrine of grace. We are not saved by our goodness but by God’s generosity towards us. Paul further explains this in Galatians when he uses Abraham as an example of someone who believes in their heart that God can and will make things right.
It is this faith in the eternal goodness of God in the midst of struggle, disappointment and misunderstandings, that sustains us as believers today. Symbols of water and bread and wine become the signifiers of this reality.
Struggling Faith invites the viewer to reflect on the symbols of blessing that allow us to untie the knots that have been pulled tight over the years, and allow us to start again, to mend bridges or to come home. It is because we believe in a God who forgives. We are instructed by the apostle Paul not to take advantage of his grace and mercy but that we must be in awe of his love and in return be moved to obedience, not through fear but out of gratitude and thanksgiving.
The visual language of ‘Struggling Faith’ seeks to draw us into another story that is only known to ourselves, and will hopefully resonate with your own personal experiences of summer and family life. The film suggests that if we look deeper into our lives we can uncover the wonderful signifiers that are God’s recurring blessings.