The writing on our walls

I walked in the Houston heat for these colorful buildings.

My destination is called Graffiti Park, though it’s a stretch to call it a park. Or to call the paintings graffiti. But I suppose the name Trash Strewn Block With Murals is not likely to draw in the tourists.

The art does attract people, though. On a steamy Sunday afternoon where the downtown is so deserted it look post-apocalyptic, there is a steady influx of people here – parking their tinted-window cars with beats so loud they sound like the footfalls of giants, then climbing out to pose for photos by the images.

Whenever I see public art like this, I always wonder, What are these artists trying to say? Can I read the “writing” on their walls? Some are clear statements about injustice. Some have statements that are enigmatic.

Others are both striking and mysterious.

What are we writing on our walls? It’s the next, obvious question. Our lives have a public aspect, like these murals. What are we showing the world about what matters to us? As I drove to the airport this morning, I listened to John’s explanation of why he penned his gospel:

“… these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

That’s an amazingly clear purpose. For those of us who follow Christ, John’s aim should be ours. We want our actions and words to lead others to the life that is offered through knowing Jesus. But how obvious does that message have to be?

One choice is to make it front and center, like this woman I briefly talked to at a rest stop on my drive. There’s nothing subtle about her approach. I told her that I admired her boldness. It’s not my style, but I appreciate the directness.

Another choice is to encode our message in Christian terminology, like this mural that uses a stained-glass motif. It stands out in the midst of more fluid, urban-youth styles around it. But it speaks an archaic “language.” The viewer needs translation to understand the form, much like the-post Christian world needs a translator for theological terms.

Or maybe we take the subtle road. This is where true art lives: the beauty and craft of the work attracts and invites people to dig deeper to find meaning. But, since what is being communicated is buried in the greater interaction, it’s harder for a clear presentation of ideas.

What’s the right approach to our life’s mural? Could it be all of the above? There is a power and a pitfall to all three, depending on the situation.

Here’s what I know. Existence, for so many people around us, is an impersonal, isolating journey of speeding to the next required activity. They have no clue to the vibrancy of “life in his name.”

It’s our job to spell it out. Or paint a picture.

Or both.

Creator God, Heavenly Father, make our lives your canvases. Paint upon our walls that perfect blend of beauty and message that the people you have put in our lives may know the true life offered through your Son.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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