The following post is written by Anne Jones. Anne is a member of Seven Mile Road Church where she serves on Story Team.
Tucked into a little corner of South Philadelphia, among labyrinthine streets choked with vehicles and crosswalks, is a spot called Magic Gardens. It is categorized as an art gallery but such a sterile label hardly does it justice. In this nook that covers about half a block, local Philadelphia artist Isaiah Zagar has created a burst of mosaic art. No prim and proper, cold white walls here. No perfectly painted canvases framed in expensive wood. No spotless marble flooring. Instead, imagine a bearded recluse sneezed his creative genius out, and filled this space with color and beauty and a hint of madness.
When my friends and I went to visit this “gallery” during the Spring break, we walked through it in a trance. Zagar has taken bits of ordinary life that, in most hands, would’ve ended up in the dumpster. Art made from cracked tiles and mirrors, broken plates and soda bottles, bicycle tires with bent spokes, even cigarette packs, clumsy wooden playthings, and paper work from Philly prisons are all splashed on every inch of space. (“Every inch” includes the floors and the restrooms too.) Poetry is scrawled on the walls and ceilings.
We tried to obey the “Do Not Touch” orders but our fingers were drawn to the rough edges. We were walking in a kaleidoscope, surrounded by beauty created from broken, jagged things all in some mysterious way connected to each other. All these trash-worthy knickknacks were at home here, given a place and infused with majesty.
The parallels between this artistry and what God has wrought through His people is uncanny.
Some of us feel dilapidated enough to wish a wrecking ball upon ourselves. Or we know deep cracks run through us, threatening to give way and pierce loved ones with our selfish and bitter edges. We see the ugliness within and wish desperately that it could be redeemed. That by way of some magic, it could be turned into something beautiful.
And then we experience Jesus, that tender and glorious Shepherd-King who picks us up, shards and all. Through His death and resurrection, we know that Life is ours through faith–the kind of abundant Life that thrives even in the midst of brokenness. He has begun the restoration process. The cracks are being mended, the rough edges sanded.
And we are being built into a unifying body to display the glory and goodness and grace of our Master. Some of us still fit in only precariously, our edges still inconveniently sharp. We share this space called Church with a bunch of other ill-fitting folks like us, and wonder if foggy bits of glass can reflect glorious sunlight.
But Jesus does what He promises to do. His Spirit has breathed new life into us, giving us purpose where there was none, beauty in the place of grime. He is creating a garden from the former trash-heap.