Both men and women came forward. Everyone who was eager to participate brought pins, earrings, rings, and necklaces, all sorts of gold objects….
Community art projects, at their beginnings, are mostly just piles of wood and paint. Blank chalkboards. Scraps of a first-grade arts supply cabinet. Exodus 35 is a community art project on steroids. This verse kicks off five chapters—FIVE—of tedious detail about the community’s glammed-out Arts & Crafts camp in the desert (“then they wrapped the yarn around the popsicle sticks, then they glued sequins onto the yarn,” etc. Read chapter 37 and tell me you don’t hear it). This art project is more than a creative interlude to pass the time in the desert. These five chapters of art-making parallel the five chapters of plague stories that occurred at the beginning of the book, while the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. It’s a direct response to the experience of slavery and freedom, and this collectivist arts movement is a deliberate attempt to create a new culture that will not repeat the hierarchy and human rights abuses of Egypt. Everyone is invited to this creative enterprise that repurposes private wealth collected from the Egyptians into a shared living history museum and worship space, where the art signals collective hope, healing, and freedom. To make art is to reshape the objects around you into something more beautiful, expressive, meaningful. It’s a sort of resilience with your hands.
Takeaway: Four or five roommates back, I lived with two wonderful women who kept a Happiness Wall on a large sheet of butcher paper in the hallway. Anyone who stopped in added a picture or phrase of what made them happy, and over the months we lived together, our community art project became a visible sign of the laughter and love in our lives. Perhaps today is a good day to start a Happiness Wall in your home. Or, if it’s not, find another way to make a moment for creative space. Perhaps a few minutes of doodling during breakfast; sitting down with the guitar after work; making up a song in the car. Even if it’s making a salad, approach the process like an art project—cut the tomatoes in a different shape, throw some unused spice in the dressing. Give yourself permission to take the pieces of your day and create something unexpected, something beautiful, expressive, meaningful.
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).