Andrea Kowch, Tea (2018)

Even if you’re not Christian, you have probably heard Psalm 23 before. It is often read at funerals. But have you ever really examined it closely? Consider this part:

“He makes me lie down in green pastures;

 he leads me beside still waters;

    he restores my soul.”

Psalm 23:2-3

He MAKES me lie down. Ha! As if anyone needs to come and FORCE me to stop and rest. 

(Okay….maybe sometimes I take on more than I should legitimately be doing, filling my calendar with meetings, appointments, tasks, activities with such a fervor you’d think the empty spaces in time were things to be feared). 

This painting captures some of that tension. It is called simply “Tea.” It’s of two women having a picnic in a pasture. The more you look at the painting, the more you see that is a bit off – the goat eating their food, the overflowing teacup. Funny – later in Psalm 23 is the phrase “my cup overflows” – I don’t think this is what the Psalmist meant though.

Andrea Kowch’s art all has this sort of haunting quality. It’s hyperrealistic while also being surreal. It’s about the mundane while still speaking to the ethereal. It depicts happy scenes while still leaving the viewer feeling desolate, with a general sense of foreboding.

I think that fits this passage well. 

I was drawn to this image because I am currently having a hard time lying down in green pastures, or finding still waters. I don’t think that makes me unusual. Heck, if it were an easy feat – if it were common – we would not need or expect some powerful celestial being to come and MAKE us lie down.

(Sidebar: The best thing about being Christian is that rest is a divine mandate.)

Why do we resist rest so fervently? Part of it is the culture we live in, so focused on achievements, placing such value on what we do. A culture where complaining about how busy you are is more of a humblebrag than an actual complaint. But I think there’s something else – this fear, that once we stop, we will be sitting in our green pasture having tea, and instead of feeling peace, we’ll feel haunted, desolate, on edge, and itching with foreboding.

And maybe we will. Maybe that’s the part where “He restores my soul” comes in. First we have to stop long enough to see where the damage is.

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