Last week I led the UKIRK crew through a Visio Divina (“divine seeing”) of a painting titled “New Roots” by Lauren Wright Pittman, in Sanctified Art's "Unraveled' series (image of her work below). Jeremiah 29:1-7 inspires Pittman’s piece, when Jeremiah instructs the Israelites to build houses, plant gardens, and multiply during the Babylonian Exile. After reading the scripture aloud and sitting with the painting, together the group discussed what we heard, saw, and what emotions emerged. We talked about the Israelites at the base of the artwork and the range of their facial expressions.
We noted that some appear content, possibly praying, while others look expectant and somewhat sad. We thought it was interesting that it seems like the Israelites themselves are the literal roots of their harvest—everything seems to be growing out of them (which we thought was neat). Overall, the group felt a sense of hope emanating from the colorful, dynamic painting despite the tragedies of the Exile. While we sensed a certain hopefulness, we talked about how difficult it is to plant new roots in new places. We didn’t want to sugarcoat the fact that it must’ve been tough for the Israelites to hear what Jeremiah wrote in his letter. This is one of the biggest things we took away: celebrating hopefulness amidst great despair but knowing it’s okay to proclaim that sometimes circumstances stink.