Passal moved quickly through the rain. She hadn’t realized that the need for an umbrella was in the forecast when she left her tiny apartment that morning, so now her only goal was to get out of the downpour as quickly as she could. Two more blocks to go, and she would be able to peel herself out of her wet clothes, dry her hair, and snuggle under the warmth of some flannel pajamas. And then she’d finally be able to open the box.
The rain had attacked just as she was entering the post office, so though she couldn’t hardly contain herself, she had forced herself to wait to open the long-awaited package until she got home, instead of ripping into it the moment the postmaster had handed it over. She didn’t want to run the risk of any of the precious cargo being touched by the rain and suffer possible damage.
Passal was an artist. A brilliant artist. Though she loved to paint and draw, her best work was done when she sculpted. And she lived and breathed for creating and building her pieces. Her already small two room apartment barely allowed space to breathe as it was, and the lining of the walls and packing of every nook with her masterpieces only compounded the claustrophobic area. Her day job was mundane and tired, but it was her evenings and weekends that drove Passal to wake up each morning and face the day. And today was no different. In fact, the anticipation of the package had spurred her on to quitting time all the more.
She jogged on wet feet as delicately as she could until finally reaching her building. She fumbled for the key in the rain, unlocked the front entrance, then quickly made her way up the three flights to her place. Once inside, she made quick work of shedding her now-drenched layers, pulling on fresh clothes, and towel-drying her soaked hair. Then almost skipped out to the pocket-sized table where she had dropped the box, now soggy from the rain.
It didn’t take long to peel the tape and packing material back to reveal the treasure that Passal had so long been waiting for.
The finishing touch for her latest sculpture.
The sculpture that Passal knew would finally bring her happiness once it was completed. The piece that would finally make her feel whole. And needed. And wanted. And special.
She clung the prize to her chest as she surveyed the corners of her cramped home. All the other beautiful works of art that she had convinced herself would bring the same change for her stood at attention. The sculptures that were perfection to look at, yet had not propelled Passal out of her world of isolation and hopelessness as she had so thought that they would.
There was a tall work of art that stood proudly in the far corner. It had been one of Passal’s earliest creations and still brought a smile to her face when she looked at it. It was constructed entirely of shiny unused cases of makeup. There were mascara tubes and wands. Sparkly lip glosses. Skinny eyeliner pencils. Compacts in all shades of shiny jewel-tones. Fresh eye shadow casings. And fancy bottles of nail polish in every color imaginable. Passal had pristinely connected them together to create a cute, yet elegant, 6 foot representation of a tube of lipstick. It had been during that time that Passal had hoped that creating the perfect cat eye and having a fresh manicure would complete her. That it would fill the void. That looking beautiful on the outside would allow her to find her place in the world. It hadn’t. In fact, it had left her feeling less and less beautiful each time she reapplied her lip gloss.
In the opposite corner stood another fun sculpture constructed entirely out of shoes. Passal had invested a huge chunk of her paychecks to finish this piece, for she had spared no expense in ordering and purchasing just the right footwear. There were stilettos that had been handcrafted in Italy. Heels that bore the names of infamous designers. Sneakers in all of the latest styles and hot colors. Sandals. Flip flops. Flats. A pair of leather boots that Passal had spent a whole month’s rent on. All of the shoes were masterfully crafted into the shape of a high heel. Passal had devoted so much income during that period of her life to all manner of clothing. She had foregone paying her bills and taking care of her other responsibilities for the sake of wearing name brands and filling her closet with all the offerings of the latest fashion magazines, catalogs, and store-front mannequins. Surely the jackets, scarfs, and jeans would finally bring Passal’s heart to rest. Looking her best at all costs would surely finally soothe her wounds. It hadn’t. In fact, she was left broke, lonely, and depressed inside her Jimmy Choos.
Under the window, there set another sculpture that glittered when the sun streamed through the panes. It, too, had cost Passal a near fortune, but she hadn’t been detoured. She had even picked up a second job to help pay for her frequent trips to jewelry stores and florists. It was a short, squatty rectangular piece made entirely out of diamond rings and roses that had been dipped and coated in gold. Passal had become convinced during that period that finding a good man, or any man for that matter, would be the solvent to all her problems. She became so obsessed with the need for intimacy that when she wasn’t exposing herself to one bad relationship after the other, she had taken to buying herself flowers and gifts. A man, or even the illusion of a man, would surely be the salve for her broken heart. It wasn’t. In fact, it left her even more alone and desperate than before.
On the counter in the kitchen, another sculpture took up most of the space available. It was enjoyable to look at for outsiders, but for Passal it brought back deep memories of sadness. It was created entirely out of tiny replicas of cupcakes, candies, cookies, and every other confection imaginable. Passal had been so detailed in her realism, that it seemed as though one could lean over and take a huge bite out of the whole work of art. She had made this piece when trying to deal with her loneliness. Rich food and late night snacks became Passal’s best friends, and they soon consumed her. She gained weight at an exponential rate, and soon Passal didn’t even recognize herself in the mirror. Her friends of food had betrayed her and had left her in a mess of pounds. She had thought meaning and comfort could be found within the morsels. They couldn’t. In fact, Passal was left fat, hopeless, and wanting to die.
There were other sculptures that were so significant, too. The large homage to exercise and fitness that Passal had constructed in hopes of smothering the pain from the period of food addiction. The art that paid tribute to alcohol and prescription drugs that Passal had tried to drown the pain with. A display showing loyalty to books and education that had been created when Passal thought that true fulfillment might come from more knowledge. There were sculptures honoring her favorite television shows. Pictures of friends and acquaintances. Money. Music.
And, yet, now as Passal took inventory of her life story wrapped up in these gorgeous masterpieces, she reflected back on a journey of loneliness and loss. None of the things that she had been told would help her had helped. None of the things that had been advertised as fixers had ever fixed.
Passal looked lovingly then at her latest addition that she held cradled in her hands. Her hands stroked over the fine edges, and she moved softly across to the tiny space she had carved out of her apartment that served as her studio. Her latest work sat proudly on the table, finished to Passal’s perfection, minus one piece. The one she now held.
It was a beautiful sculpture. Maybe her finest yet. It was a tribute to her latest grasp for completion. It was made entirely of intricately carved olive wood figures and of small stained glass panes depicting various scenes. She had searched long and hard for each item, and had purchased wooden lambs, crosses, lions, and arks. There were boats and scrolls and tiny mangers. There were glass portraits of a small boy hurling a stone at a giant; of a man surrounded by lions; of a basket with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Passal had been so careful in collecting every detail for this sculpture ever since she had started going to church and hearing more about God. People there had told her how this Man called Jesus could save her and bring her happiness like she had never known, and so Passal had leapt head first into religion with as much consumption as she had the food, the clothes, and the boys. And though Passal was doing all the things she was told would bring her finally to peace, she still felt lost and alone. But, surely, with this final treasure to add to the sculpture, everything would fall in place. All would be revealed to her and this Jesus would make her happy.
As she reached for her tools to set to work, Passal saw an unfamiliar slab of what looked like concrete propped comfortably against the wall near her table. She kneeled curiously to inspect it and found it was etched in beautiful calligraphy.
My Darling Passal,
I stopped by earlier while you were at work and admired your sculptures. I’m so pleased that you are using your talents that I gave you, but am so saddened by the hopelessness you feel. I remember these days with you, dear one. I remember when you thought if you could just look a certain way or have a person taking up space beside you that you would finally be happy. I wanted so badly for you to look to Me. You turned to food and shopping and even your art to comfort you, when I was all along just longing to be your True Comfort. I should have been happy when you began your quest for meaning and purpose through the church and even in My Word. But, you have treated knowledge of Me as a remedy and as a magic genie. You have found religion, yes, but you have missed relationship with Me.
My dear, I have been here for you the whole time. I’ve been your protector and guider even when you searched elsewhere away from Me.
Idols. You have made these beautiful pieces of art, and, not only worshiped them, but you have worshiped what they represent. Idols. You have devoted your time, money, love, and passion into these things that have left you defeated and destructed. And you continue to worship these things. Looking to false hope for true hope and coming up empty everytime.
Crush your idols, Passal. Tear these down and turn to Me. The One Who cannot be built or represented effectively by the things of this world. Destroy them, Passal. Seek Me.
The Man Called Jesus
Passal melted to the floor in a pile of tears. Although she didn’t understand how it would be possible, she knew what she had read was true. She wept and ran her fingers over the calligraphic words again.
Could it be?
Without another thought, Passal stuffed the treasure from the box into her pocket and grabbed a broom. She made quick work of dismantling each and every sculpture in the house. She used brute force with the aid of the broom handle when needed, and after an hour of steady work, her living space was filled with trash bags brimming with the remains of her precious art. Before she could change her mind, she hefted the heavy bulging bags down to the garbage incinerator of her building and hurled her memories and idols of her past into the growling fire. As the last bag was licked clean by the flames, Passel collapsed in a heap of dirty tears on the disgusting scorched floor.
Oh, God. I do not know what I am doing or how to do it. But I surrender.
Those were the only words that left her mouth, but Passal stayed drenched in sweat, filth, and tears for several hours. When she finally picked herself up, she felt free. Released. And with a sweet relief that she had never known before. Though she didn’t understand what was happening to her, Passal knew she would never be the same.
Back in her apartment, she knelt in the corner where her lipstick sculpture had stood earlier and began to arrange her latest creation.
For though she had trashed her sculptures, she had kept one piece from each one. And now, with the true fingers of an expert craftsman, Passal constructed her finest work.
Not an idol.
But an altar.
As she prayed quiet simple prayers to this new God she had pledged her devotion to and who had changed her life so radically in just a matter of moments, she became aware again of the treasure that she had slipped in her pocket. This treasure that was to help complete her.
Passal drew it out slowly, and, with tears in her eyes, she made her way back down to the incinerator.
With a deep sigh, she threw it gently into the fire.
The perfectly handcrafted calf made entirely of gold.
He….made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf….Then they said, “These are your gods.” –Exodus 32:4
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. –Exodus 20:4
Build there an altar to the Lord your God….rejoicing in the presence of the Lord your God. –Deuteronomy 27:5, 7