Illustration of the Month: Gifts of Christ

By Hillary Asbury

I’ve always been pretty sensitive to violence. There are plenty of films and TV shows that I simply cannot get through without covering my eyes, and sometimes my ears. In fact, just the other night, I was watching a show, opened my eyes a little too soon during a particularly graphic scene, and almost wretched. I’m an artist; I’m very visual, and sometimes I think I can’t watch something like that without experiencing it in my mind. I see it happen (or read it), and I automatically go to that place with the character. I know it’s not real, but I react to it as if it is. I wish I were better at handling it, but I find violence, even if very fake, upsetting.

Yet I find myself fascinated by the violence of our faith.

Perhaps it’s because we tend to focus on the flowery, pretty parts of our faith. We dress it up as something tame, palatable. It becomes an accessory in our life, a decoration. We forget that our God is a vengeful God, one who demands justice. We forget the extreme judgments exacted in the Old Testament, that the Angel of the Lord killed the firstborn sons of those who oppressed His people. Even those who were spared were saved only because they themselves committed a violent act by killing a lamb and smearing its blood on their doors. Maybe it’s because we are told these stories over and over again, read them in church with chanting, monotone voices, but sometimes I think we lose sight of how visceral, how gory, our faith really is.

It’s not always pretty, not always comfortable.

I often think about this when I’m working. As I’m drawing a cross or illustrating a lesson, I visualize the Scripture that I’m working from, and sometimes the visual isn’t flowery at all. Sometimes it’s bloody.

Sometimes it’s scary.

When I began working on this cross, the illustrations I had recently done were very decorative. I thought about the reality of the cross, the reality of Christ’s death, and was struck by the violence of our salvation.

Christ is not a decoration we put up on the walls of our hearts. He comes into them as resident and King, and He does so through violent means.

Easter usually brings up visions of flowers and pastel colors, Christ arisen and in His Glory. But even the resurrection of our Lord was shocking. It was a bodily resurrection, visceral and real. His wounds were still intact. God did not smooth over the ugly parts of our faith even on Easter Sunday.

The consequences of our sin were still on display for everyone to see, even once they were paid for in full.

Now, I realize this illustration is still “pretty.” I can’t quite bring myself to include graphic gore in my illustrations. That’s really not what people want to see on their bulletin covers or hanging on their walls anyway. But it is a little more stripped down than many of my other pieces. It goes straight to the center of our faith, acknowledges the violence of the cross, and gives thanks for the body and blood given for our salvation.

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