Contend: Pen and Paint Reflections with Karen and Karen

by Christine Sine

Reflection and poetry by Karen Wilk, visual art by Karen Tamminga-Paton

In Orthodox Christian traditions, Lent has been referred to as the bright sad season. I can relate to the paradox and tension in this description, especially this year as we are still carrying the grief of a number of significant losses that we experienced last fall. This painting invited me to ponder the struggle of holding on in the darkness while yet being aware of the brightness; in other words, to contend. Perhaps that is an integral part of what it means to engage the bright sadness of Lent. Perhaps to contend is to break down the walls in our own souls such that we can remain in the middle of the paradox and tension. Perhaps, Jesus too, had a lot of bright sadness with which to contend. And surely his contention broke down all our walls.

I invite you to study the painting and then dwell in the text:


I contend, I do, but I can barely hold on right now.
I just want to let go.
      What would happen if I just let go?
Get a grip!
      They say…
Look at the bright side
      Think positive.
            You can do it.
What if I can’t –
      Be strong?
            Hold on?

Jacob contended-
      Wrestling an angel late at night.
Abraham contended with the Lord
      What if there be 50 righteous, 40 – 10?
Moses contended; I cannot speak.
      Ruth at Boaz’ feet
            David in ashes, might the child live?
Jesus contended WITH
      the self-righteous, the proud and powerful
Jesus contended FOR
      Tax collectors, lepers, the lame
      Women, ‘sinners’, the blind and the shamed…
Jesus contended IN
      a garden
      With the Father and all our humanity…
With all our humanity,
      We contend
      The evil, the poverty,
            The destruction, the war and desolation
                  The disease, despondency, and isolation
We contend
      All the darkness and despair…
      –the pain and loss that leave us raw and bare.

I contend, I do, but I can barely hold on right now.
While the world is dark and blue
      And the sky is falling
      Might I contend, if there be heavenly
            glitter and gold
                  that without end, descends
                        And without me, transcends…
I wonder, whose hands really hold–
      Perhaps they’re not mine
            After all–
                  And I need not contend.
Perhaps Divine One attends
                        Amends, Defends…
                                    On behalf of His Created Ones
                                          His Beloved, Spirit impends
                                                With grace and favour commends…
                                                            For us
                                                                  With us—
                                                                        I CONTEND,
                                                                              GOD CONTENDS.

Would he contend against me with his great power?
      No, he himself would heed me!
 Job 23:6 NABRE


Visual Artist’s Statement: Contend (ken tend’) v. 1 fight; struggle. 2 take part in a contest; compete. 3 argue; dispute. 4 declare to be a fact; maintain as true. Syn: cope, wrestle, battle; emphasizing the idea of trying heard and struggling against opposition.

I contend…through brush and paint, I contend. (72×36, acrylic and goldleaf on canvas, 2014) 

Preparing for the Garden Walk of Holy Week

In the last few days of his life, Jesus moved from garden to garden from suffering to resurrection.

Join Christine Sine for a Lent retreat that reflects on this journey and prepares for the challenging week that follows Palm Sunday.

Click here to register! We are once again offering several price points to aid those who are students or in economic hardship

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