Unexpected Joy & Surprise
read // GENESIS 18:1-15; 21:1-7
from the artist // HANNAH GARRITY
Sarah, mother of Isaac, joyfully nurses her newborn son, giving him the nutrients he needs to grow and thrive. Abounding liquid—as a mother, I know what that is like. The feeling of a pouring out; a pouring out of milk, of blood, of tears, of joy; a pouring out of depression, of fear, of baby blues, of awe.
In this image, I have expressed the feeling of pouring out. The flow throughout the background relates directly to the pain and joy that Sarah and Hagar have struggled
through in their discordant parallel lives. Expressed in shades of milk, blood, and water, this image is deeply feminine. The blood that delivers life is the same blood
that is shed in sexual abuse. The milk that sustains life is produced by the body whether a child is conceived by choice or by force. A new mother’s emotions run the wide gamut from overwhelming joy, to emotional pain, to previously unmet fear, and to lack of control. They
extend from postpartum depression to baby blues. The experience is nothing like anything I have ever felt before or after, a paradigm shift in life. The deep and painful multiplicity of new motherhood is often summed up in perfectly constructed highlight reel photographs on baby
announcements. In this painting, I depict Sarah putting up a front of pure joy. It’s honest, but it’s only one small sliver of the real story.
As women we stand at once in vulnerability and beauty, in strength and love, in pain and joy. The moments of our lives envision God’s grace in deep complexity.
Take a few moments to gaze upon the artwork. Breathe deeply in quiet meditation as you observe the visual qualities of what you see: color, line, texture, movement, shape, form.
Now take a deeper look. What parts of the image are your eyes most drawn to? What parts of the image did you overlook?
Now engage your imagination. What story do you imagine for each figure?
- What has unraveled and/or is unraveling in this story?
- How does God respond to Sarah’s and Abraham’s disbelief and doubt? How does God respond to us when we are closed off to newness?
- Theologian Walter Brueggemann writes of this passage, “Laughter is a biblical way of receiving a newness which cannot be explained. The newness is sheer gift—underived, unwarranted.”1 What might it look like for our disbelief to unravel into joy?
When I need it most, unravel me with blessed newness and boundless joy. Amen.