Friday, March 5, 2010

The Ripple Effect

Last week as we were preparing for the Splendor and Holiness Worship Seminar, we received word that a friend of ours had died. The news was upsetting and bewildering. In reality, I can’t say that I knew him all that well. I had spoken to him a handful of times, listened to him preach on a few occasions, spent an evening at his home, and had the opportunity to paint at his church once. We were by no means the best of friends, there is much about him that I did not know, but he was one of those people who you always wanted to have one more conversation with. Someone you wanted to get to know better, and suddenly the chance is gone.

Death has a way of putting life into perspective. As one writer put it, “Death does not negate life, but defines it.” Death leaves the living to put into words what this person meant to them, who we thought they were, and reveals who they truly were.

If I were to compile a check list of facts that I knew about him, they would be few, trivial really. His name, his wife, and a few kids, I vaguely remember. His conversion story was unique and I retain merely a hazy recollection, not enough to retell, but it is not my story to tell anyway. As I consider this man, a man that some may say I only knew superficially, I can’t help but think of the ripple effect of his life. I him met in a time when I realized that Christianity as I knew it was insufficient to meet the needs of my life. A time when I was being forced to reconcile who I was as an artist with who I was as a Christian. It was a time when I was being led away from mere head knowledge of God into an experience that my traditions had not prepared me to face. It was a time of great questioning and learning.

The pastor of my church had visited this man’s church and saw the artists who worshipped through their painting. When he returned he told me about the painting that happened in this other church and extended the invitation for me to do the same in ours. It was a life changing experience, and continues to be.

Later, Nathan and I traveled to Dallas with our friend Craig Conaway to visit with this new type of preacher. The conversations we had with our friend were way over my head. Terms like post modern and emerging church were thrown about, I was lost but I did my best to keep up. I met Justin and Kelly Nygren that night, and years later still value their friendship. I cannot even begin to quantify the world that opened up for me that night, but I do know it is one I would come to love.

With Justin, Kelly, and Craig, the conversation from that night continued. Nathan and I were introduced to new ideas and concepts that led us to the creation of Pagus. Our friend may not have been physically present for these discussions, but his influence was keenly felt. I have a feeling it will be for a long, long time.

Ripples. We all make them. You can’t step into the water without making your presence known. We see the light breaking off the water around our feet, dancing away from our legs as the river accommodates our presence. The small waves finally dissipating into the distance, and we begin to believe that the water forgets that we disturbed its easy flow.

The thing is you never know where the ripple you make will break, pushing along a lazy leaf, lapping against a dry land, or causing the cattails to dance. We lack the sight to see how our lives push against another, shaping them, stirring an idea, awakening a dream all from the ripples of our lives. A single step into the water may be the thing that nudges another into a current, propelling them towards their dream.

I regret that my friend did not know how his life rippled across mine, and now yours, but his death makes me wonder if the ripples of my life bless those around me. In the end, I would like to think that when I disrupted the water’s flow a few of you were nudged deeper into your purpose, into your dream, or that I at least made the cattails dance in the wake of my existence. The water never forgets that we are there, it is only we who forget. Don’t ever lose sight of the power of your life to influence change in the life of another. It may only be the slightest ripple but sometimes that is all it takes to correct a course and urge someone deeper into their destiny.


Anonymous said...

Ripples...Ha! Emily you are a tidal wave! God's power in you is so strong! (at least in this artist's experience) God bless thanks for the words!

Debra (Warren)Ellis said...

That was very powerful...Thank you! Debra