I can’t tell you when I first saw it, or first noticed it, but I know I was young, really young. There it hung in Grandma’s house, actually Papa’s and Grandma’s house, but in my mind, when it came to this picture, it was Grandma’s house.
The picture was of Jesus and so not actually a picture but an artist’s depiction of what Jesus may have looked like and, to me and millions of others, what he did look like. To put it another way, even as a young lad, when I first saw it, I knew it was Jesus.
So, there he hung in a room with very little else hanging on the walls. Jesus’ head, with his eyes and nose to the left, a profile, was raised slightly to a glow in the sky. I didn’t know it when I first saw it, but later I learned that this was a depiction of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Interesting how appropriate it is to be writing of this picture at this time of the year.
Again, let us go back to say, 1950 and there I was, not just once but several times looking at the picture. Was Jesus looking after me, taking care of me, protecting me or was Jesus looking at me? After me or at me? Funny, even 67 years later, I have the same question. A loving God or a judging God? Or both?
Time goes on. Janice and I acquire the “Walker Home Place” and with it, the abandoned Jesus picture that no one takes when real estate changes hands. And, so, every time I went in or through the bedroom, I glanced at Jesus. I didn’t stop and ponder, like I’m doing now, but I noticed.
Then, the “Walker Home Place” changes hands, again, and we remove the Jesus picture from the bedroom wall and bring him to Perry and he is eventually hung in our barn, over the entrance and exit door. There he hung. And, every time I went in and out, I looked up, like Jesus was doing in the picture. Do you know what I thought about? Not Jesus so much as Grandma. And, when I’d see him, I’d think what a gentle, kind and loving person she was and how much I missed her. To me, Grandma was the kind of person Jesus wanted all of us to be.
I didn’t give it lots of thought, but had I done so, I would have assumed that Jesus would hang in our barn at least until I died, and eventually he’d be taken down by some new owner and perhaps be put in a box or drawer somewhere or maybe even disposed of. After all, it was a cheap print framed in a cheap frame. But, actually this never crossed my mind. I figured he’d hang there as long as I lived and would look at us or after us. I wouldn’t have to decide. I wouldn’t make the decision.
We are not in control. We don‘t know from day to day what is going to happen. We try, some try harder than others, and some understand more, but no one fully understands. What do the scriptures say? Something like this: “Now we see through a glass dimly, but one day we will understand.” That’s this writer’s interpretation. But I do know we don’t understand. Perhaps one day.
Then Jesus or the Jesus picture was taken down. I didn’t do it. No one that might have ended up with the Jesus picture did. But, there it was. The Jesus picture was on the floor, the glass was broken and the cheap print of Jesus in the garden, praying, was wet and stained.
Two of the hanging doors in “our” barn were blown into the barn. Two others were bent and damaged. Broken pictures of Muhammed Ali and me, Ed Thompson, and our whole family, the Methodist softball team in the ‘60s when Daddy was still the pitcher, the grandchildren, and the three wet hornet nests, were on the floor and dozens of trees were down and our wooden fence was broken by fallen trees in several places.
We had worked so hard and now it was all a big mess. And, then I saw it. The Jesus picture. Someone had set it up straight. And he was looking up. But for the first time, I noticed the sadness in his eyes. And, there were tears in mine, because I was thinking about Grandma. And, I was thinking about Jesus. Was he looking at us or was he looking after us? It won’t ever be hung again. It’s damaged too much. It wasn’t completely destroyed, but it might as well have been. The Jesus picture won’t be hung again.
And, all of this in my mind during the Easter season. Looking at us or looking after us or both?
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.