Two weeks ago, I decided to take a day trip to the American Museum of Visionary Art in Baltimore. This museum is filled with art made by people with little to no formal training but who delight in the sheer joy of creation: sculptures made from scrap metal, quilts stitched from clothing rags, and paintings on surprising surfaces like car hoods and cardboard abound.

One of the most striking works of art I saw during my most recent visit to this museum was tucked away in a corner, by the elevator. Created by Mary Proctor in 2004, this work of art that stood over six feet tall was a door covered in broken porcelain plates with a painting of a young African American girl looking up at an older African American woman. Painted in between the two were the words, “I remember when I broke Grandma old blue plates, I thought she would whip me. Instead, she held my hands and said ‘I forgive you cause just yesterday God forgave me and He said one must forgive to be forgiven”

What I found most compelling about this work of art was how quickly and intensely I was able to relate to the little girl and how desperately I wanted to relate to the grandmother. We have all felt like the little girl who accidentally broke something important and was worried she would get in trouble—begging for forgiveness for our transgressions from our parents, our teachers, our leaders, our God. And how I wish could forgive with the grace and compassion of the grandmother whose delicate blue plate had just been broken.

Christ calls us to love our neighbors and our enemies, and Christ has taught us that radical forgiveness is part of that love. We must forgive those who act unkindly, who wish do harm, and who make mistakes, large or small, just as Christ forgives us. I don’t think there is a single person among us who has not asked for forgiveness (we do it every Sunday!), but are we just as willing to give forgiveness as we are willing to ask for it?


My Grandma’s Old Blue Willow Series, by Mary Proctor