Menges, Sonya, Missing Man, graphite on paper, 94 x 51 in., 2009, $3,000.jpg

Tithing & Sacrificial Giving

As I meditated on the practice of tithing and sacrificial giving, I thought of my drawing, Missing Man, and the metaphorical power of water. Here, the perspective of the imagined waterfalls is from an elevated view, inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog. There are a variety of visual tensions: flatness yet depth, shifting water yet solid ground, movement yet stillness, seen yet unseen, light yet dark, presence yet absence. A friend reminded me of this last paradox in this work. I found that sacrificial giving can result in an absence, that finds a presence and fullness somewhere else, in someone else, even in us, through the work of Christ. How?

Proverbs 30:4, "Who has ascended to heaven and come down?..."

Philippians 3:7-11: "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord... that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

These two passages help me realize the depth and breadth of the gifts I have already received from my Heavenly Father, especially Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf. Perhaps the only way to give sacrificially and selflessly is to hold fast to thankfulness. In dependent emptiness, I can see the abundance, provision, and grace, given by a God who cares for me, even if it is not as I had first imagined. And I give in response and in order to know that God more.

Missing Man reminds me that life is in the movement of the water, despite unknown and chaotic danger. Still and secure water becomes rancid and stagnant. Letting go does bring absence, but in emptying we can be filled with the presence of the living water of Christ.

- Sonya Menges