Living in Atlanta, one is asked to visually imbibe a greater variety of graffiti than folks living in smaller towns or rural communities. I’m not saying it’s not present OTP (“Outside the Perimeter” as we say here in the ATL), but the same quantity just isn’t present. Normally, it’s a word scrawled hastily on an exterior surface, one even I with my background in English education cannot decipher. (I firmly believe that reading teenagers’ scribblings for more than a decade left me prepared to translate Sanskrit, Elvish, and Klingon with equal ease. It’s like being one of the X-Men….but with an even lamer ability than Jubilee’s.)
Other times, the graffiti I see is an image involving chimerical creatures or abstract art, and sometimes it’s a whimsical creation like the one below…a pig (or a hippo) preparing to devour an ice cream cone. The juxtaposition of these two items makes absolutely no sense; there’s no symbolic meaning I can glean from it. At one time, when I lived in a world that wasn’t as hyper-decorated as my current home city, I might have poured over this image searching for some hidden truth or imbedded message. Now, eh, not so much. It’s just one more polychromatic embellishment that gives the place character.
I mentioned in a previous post that while I find graffiti interesting, I neither support it as an art form nor wish to outright ban it. If a building is abandoned, by all means, scribble on it you various types of ne’er-do-wells. One man’s crumbling brick wall is another man’s canvas and all that. However, if someone is living in it or attempting to run a business out of it, keep your Krylon to yourself, taggers!
However, just when I think I have my mind made up on a subject, I see new factors that compel me to reconsider my beliefs—even about something like graffiti. Driving home the other day, I saw this little gem on a wall behind a business that’s near railroad tracks. Take a look….
There are two interesting things to note. One, this scribble is one hundred percent legible. Points to the teacher or parent who was a stickler for proper penmanship. After all, there’s nothing worse than having something earth-shaking to say and no one being able to read it because you couldn’t be bothered to follow the rules of cursive. Two, this provocative declaration is without a single grammatical blemish. The correct homonym (There’s) has been selected, the apostrophe is in the right place, “probably” is spelled correctly, and there is even an appropriate use of an ellipsis (…). Granted, it’s in all caps, but one can hardly fault the seeker who penned the statement. Spray paint is dash hard to work with as a medium, and, truth be told, the statement he or she is making might merit the loud delivery.
Compare this message to some of the others I’ve found posted on the Internet…
(Never mind the fact it should technically be “Woe is I.” I’m just happy someone took the time to fix the glaring error!)
Judging by his or her peers, I firmly believe someone of passable intelligence wrote the message I captured on my camera phone. The handwriting and grammatical correctness tell me as much.
This person is not asking a question but rather is making a statement: “There’s probably no God…”
Not “There’s no God.” or “How can there be a God?” or even “Where is God?” No, this individual is stating that there is no God, but even in that assertion there is no certainty because of the choice to use “probably” as a modifier. Why waste both time and paint (not to mention risk getting arrested) to make a statement like this? Usually, they are quick posts made by a person who thinks he or she has answers to life’s questions (most of which involve a curse word for some reason). This person wanted to leave a half-finished thought behind for others to chew on, one that just happens to involve one of the most important and most hashed-over questions in the universe.
This is a statement that demands an answer from believers, and it is proof that evangelism is still vital in our world. This young person is prompting a discussion about the Lord’s presence with his artistic sojourn—this shrug of the shoulders made with obsidian paint. It’s almost like he’s daring us to retort, not because he wants to enter into a debate in an attempt to prove us wrong. This doesn’t strike me as the work of a hardened atheist whose heart is closed to the teachings of Jesus Christ and is unwilling to hear.
This person needs to be found, needs to be told about Christ and gently compelled by the Holy Spirit to take in the world around him in all its wondrous glory. A Christian needs to take this person and usher him into the very throne room of God as we have all been at times in our lives. After all, anyone who has ever witnessed God at work will tell you that it is impossible to deny His handiwork or His presence once you have been shown. You simply cannot “unsee” God. After experiencing His love and power, the word “probably” can never exist again in your vocabulary.
Now that I’m older, I’m coming to understand just how essential the Great Commission is and how working in the power of the Holy Spirit to witness to others and share the love of God is vital. Millions of people in my city alone are lost and hurting tonight, and all of it is needless. Someone who knows what Jesus Christ was willing to do to redeem us has no need for drugs or the empty promise of another’s body for comfort. Everything is different when He’s in the middle of it. That’s why we must “open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith” in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:18).
I think about the young man who wrote, “There’s probably no God…” and ache for him. Is his heart seeking answers as mine once did? How will he find them if I’m not willing to go and tell, to leave my own message to the world on that same wall, written in red, next to his….
“There certainly is a God, and He loves you.”