This is my latest work in the Encounter Gallery series entitled “Disciples Serve the Five Thousand”. I was talking with my friend Takiyah about my narrative portraits and that I had started out painting almost exclusively my own family members, mostly because they were willing. I said that as I looked back over my paintings, it occurred to me that my family was awfully white. Takiyah laughed and said “well, my family is awfully black!” I asked her if there was a gospel story that she most identified with and characterized her and her history. She said that the one that most often came to mind was the feeding of the 5,000. She told me about growing up fairly poor in the Los Angeles area, but definitely not realizing that they were poor. She recounted a few of the numerous times that her family was unexpectedly confronted with the Lord’s abundance. This idea of abundance is central to Takiyah’s experience of God in her life. He has supplied her and her family’s needs abundantly and continually. There were powerful stories from her childhood in which her family was blessed with abundance that could only have come from God. As I listened to her stories, I thought of my own history. My father had a good job, and worked steadily throughout my childhood. I never really questioned or wondered where the groceries came from. I realized early on that Dad was paid regularly, and the money went into the bank, and that was how we bought the groceries. I knew then that God provides, even in this way. But Mom and Dad were very frugal, and I never really got a sense of abundance or unexpectedness. Our abundance was more a sense of “enough” and “steady” for which I’m very grateful. This very consistency was and is a gift from my Dad. The groceries always got bought, so that meant that Dad was working, and God was providing both.
But Takiyah’s experience was different and in its own way glorious. God has continued to provide for her in an abundant and sometimes an unexpected way.
While meditating on the story of the 5,000, I began to think about how much labor it would have taken to distribute a dinner of fish and bread to so many men, women and children. Thousands of meals delivered across a hillside next to the lake would have taken so much effort. I imagined that as Jesus multiplied the fish and bread, his disciples saw what was happening and quickly realized what it would take to serve this crowd. They loaded up with plates of the newly created meals and went throughout the crowd, handing out delicious food to everyone who was there. I set the scene on the northeast shore of White Rock Lake with the skyline of Dallas just barely visible in the distance. I pictured the disciples as seasoned diner waiters and waitresses with arms full of plates of baked fish and rolls headed up the hill to the people. This was a day of extraordinary and unexpected abundance, and Jesus’ many followers and disciples were there to serve. It is the perfect story of Takiyah’s experience with the unexpected abundance from God.
“Disciples Serve the Five Thousand” is currently on display with the Encounter Gallery series at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Watson Hall (in Dallas) until August 22, 2019.