Learn the story behind this painting!
More Than Watchmen Wait for the Morning
This piece, like me, has a considerable story. More Than Watchmen Wait for the Morning was originally inspired by a musician-friend’s story of his “dark night of the soul,” communicated through the medium of a solitary piano piece. I heard the empty sound of each key as it struck like needle pricks to a tired and lonely soul. I imagined battered hands playing their life-song in a minor key. The hands and the skeleton in the lower left corner of my resulting painting are one life. The hands are the outward expression of a weary human and the bones are the dry and dying soul.
Partly through the inspirational piano piece I heard the tone change. The notes were light, fast, like trickling water. Then I heard the sound of water pouring and I thought of Living Water coming to quench the dry bones of the player’s soul.
After months working on the concept, the piece gained an additional canvas and it was flipped sideways and upside down. Eventually I worked out the story of the life-song of the piano player, and I became so involved that the story grew to be mine. The ultimate expression of my own dark night of the soul (which in reality was a roller-coaster ride of a couple of years) is found in the death- not of the soul-bones, but of my will to save myself. When I started this piece, Psalm 130 communicated this exact burden of despair on a dark night:
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
It was the idea of desperate thirst for God and the haunting repetition, “More than watchmen wait for the morning, More than watchmen wait for the morning,” that led me to title the piece as such. It was at this point of desperate thirst that Jesus my Savior found me, broken and dead in a spiritual sense. He poured cold water onto my face, woke me up violently to the reality of a Real-reality. He was not about to let me give up. The Living Water literally comes from the cleansing blood, gushing down like a fountain through the nail scars in his hands. For some reason I cannot picture the face of God, but I can always picture his hands. They communicate so much to me in their worn out and wrinkled appearance, like that of a gentle, hard-working craftsman. This human dimension of God is paralleled with the galaxy of stars behind it, communicating the sovereignty and divinity of God Incarnate. Note that the dying human soul at the bottom of the piece is so steeped in darkness that they cannot see the stars.
Right at the moment where death and life collide, nothing dramatic happens. The change is dramatic, but it takes patience to wait for it to bear fruit. I wanted to show a time progression through the three lumps of dirt next to the grave. At first, just the grave is disintegrating, but then a new seed begins to sprout. The plant to the farthest right is the expression of the same soul that was once dry bones. These hands are now made new, even sprouting new green from each highest-reaching fingertip, and poised in an offering of worship. This new plant is life to the fullest here on earth, fruitful and healthy and erect toward heaven. A sermon a couple of weeks ago made me think about the painting’s concept even deeper than I had, and I realized that my idea was not only artistic, but Biblical. Look at Ezekiel 37:
1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"
I said, "Sovereign LORD, you alone know."
4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.' "
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.' " 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.' "
This work the Lord does is extraordinary. It’s not that the bones were dying or half-dead. They were completely dead, and dry. God says, “you will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.” Since my dark years of the soul, I have begun to realize this slow and trust-building process in my own life. This word from God is a process, and also a promise. Since feeling the burden of spiritual death, I have begun to realize my deep need for a Savior; I have begun to know that He is Lord. Though I often stumble and revert to the character of the broken soul, I pray that I will spend ever-increasing days as the plant on the right- fully aware of my need and fully aware of He who can fulfill it, refreshing me and renewing me day by day.