70×7

Tonight my friend Jennifer Chetelat filled our very own Gallery Edit with her ceramics. She works clay skillfully, but she also writes powerfully. In this show, I got to see her at her best; every piece stunned me with its earthy, elegant simplicity, and her words about the work revealed how these beauties were born out of her commitment to personal transformation.

I came late to the show. All afternoon in our gallery-office, Jennifer had been encouraging me to go home and take a nap. She could see that I was exhausted. To be honest, I was responsible for my own fatigue. As my supervisor, she could have very well interrogated me, gotten irritated, or insisted that I stay for all my scheduled hours. She didn’t, though. She saw me and made sure I knew that my well-being was more important to her than my performance.

When I walked into the gallery an hour after I was supposed to, still dazed after my nap, she was in the middle of telling the audience about her work. Afterwards, I hugged her, and she told me how glad she was that I had rested. I walked over to her piece 70×7. She made this in response to a story where someone asks Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my neighbor? Seven?” and Jesus says, “No, seventy times seven.” Jennifer told me, “I wanted to see what seventy times seven looks like.”

70x7

Jennifer Chetelat, 70×7, ceramic and wood

490 nails, 490 clay tiles with a hole to hang them. Jennifer invited us each to hang one, representing someone or something who has been forgiven.

I hung my tile like a eucharistic wafer to the cross, thankful that tonight, Jennifer extended to me the forgiveness of God. With this clay, I acknowledged my communion with the forgiven sinners. I put my hope in the God who is molding me into a new vessel. I know I will be able to look back twenty years from now and, like Jennifer, say, “Because I am forgiven, I am not the same lump of clay I started as.”

Forgiveness

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