I saw this amazing painting airbrushed on a wall whilst I was walking through Notting Hill this weekend. I think it is picture of an old Samuel Beckett the author, play-write and director, famous for his bleak humour. I was sitting in a coffee shop opposite and only connected with the image when a car pulled away from the parking space in front.
What struck me about the painting wasn’t its reference to the famous individual it seemed to depict, but its defensiveness. The man’s gaze links with you the viewer, expressing both a connection and offence. Hardly welcoming, his pursed lips and harsh frown seem to stand their ground, yet his eyes give way to emotion. It is as if this man is both pushing you away but also crying out for your help.
I noticed that fly posters had been removed from the painting. Maybe that is why I hadn’t seen it before. Some of their remnants still clung on to his cheek and brow and I wondered what that meant. Maybe his frown related to having been covered up and his tears were ones of joy at being released from his papery prison.
As I drew back from the picture I noticed the brown door to the right of him, very battered and stained. It was as if this was the door into him, and now it was locked shut.
Many of us are caught in the tension between frowns and tears. Unable to really reach outwards, but also unable to retreat inside; we can live in the half-light of steely self-reliance, untouchable and yet longing to be touched. The reason for this isolation often happens because the door to your emotions has been opened and abused too many times in the past. Now, wary of allowing people to step in and get too close, the door is locked and the lights are off.
Understandable as this is, healing and restoration cannot come when the pain is locked in and the love is locked out. Only when the door is opened can hope be restored. Holman Hunt painted the famous picture, “Jesus Light of the World”, in which Jesus stood knocking on a door that had no handle. Holman explained that the handle was on the inside since only a person themselves could open the door of their heart to Jesus.
When we have suffered at the hands of people in the past, it is hard to let good people into our lives today. A bleak regard for people very often replaces our natural optimism and a dark humour can be our greatest defence. Jesus’ disarming love is in my experience our only remedy. His transforming authenticity opens the locked door and teaches us to trust again. Hope is restored when we find our hope in him.
"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 NLT
Rev Will Van Der Hart