The Art of “Forever Dying, Forever Living”
Scan as many “reconciliation” books as I do, and you can get bored with the covers: at one extreme kumbayah black-and-white hands, at the other barbed-wire fences. Either too sentimental or too hopeless. What a challenge it is to bring together in one image both the pain and hope which is the journey of reconciliation. Everyday on the terrace of the beautiful new addition Duke Divinity School added in 2000 I walk by a stunning exception: a sculpture titled “Reconciliation.” Made by the North Carolina artist Margaret Adams Parker, the sculpture tells the Luke 15 Prodigal Son story. But what Parker captures is a deeper story of a Forgiving Father and Two Lost Sons, powerfully capturing both reconciliation resisted and embraced. Clarence Jordan once wrote of the interracial Koinonia Farm in Georgia, “This is what always baffles me–Koinonia is forever dying and forever living. We should have conked out long ago, but somehow others came in the nick of time. This half-born condition is agonizing, and I could wish it otherwise, but there it is.” See the powerfully different faces, hands, and angles of the sculpture and the artist’s account. My favorite detail: the feet–the “deserving” elder son’s work boots, the returning younger son’s bare feet, the father’s house slippers. And the pleading eyes of the one without whom a new future is impossible.