To speak of this painting is to tell the story of my dear brother in the Lord Tim (and his journey to meet and marry Phanuelle). Tim and I began working as teachers at Trinity Pawling School the same year together in 2010. Tim had been brought up in a strong spiritual heritage of Christ and had deep roots, but 4 years of Hamilton College had stretch and torn him, and he was earnestly seeking to become the man God had called him to become. It was a pleasure to walk beside him for the next 7 years as we started a Thursday morning Bible study at Dunkin Donuts, visited Haiti twice together, and prayed over one another as we ministered to our colleagues and students at the school day by day. Tim was “in the trenches” as he lived on campus, working 70+ hours a week, and his desire to become a husband and father seemed far out of reach. I watched my brother refined and healed by the Lord over these years, and it was a privilege to walk beside him through the ups and downs of self discovery, longing, heartache, and hope.
Our final year together at Trinity-Pawling in 2016 began with both of us knowing we would leave, Tim to Wellspring Church in NH and me to what I would come to discover was to be Charlotte, NC. We met even more regularly to build one another up as we knew our regular time together was drawing to a close, and the Lord deepened our bond as brothers and the sweetness of our fellowship as its time was limited. We prayed earnestly that God would fulfill Tim’s longing for a wife and family in the future, and during one of our final gatherings, I had a vision of the Lord holding up a veil, hiding behind it a stunning bride for Tim, and the Father beaming at him from His vantage as if to say “This is going to be SO wonderful Tim - just you wait!”. I caught a glimpse of the bride at the very end, her back turned to me and looking over her shoulder. The above image of “Lausanne Pillar 2” was based on that revelation, the “Bride” as the Bride of Christ- the Global/eternal Church, holding the light of the gospel which is going out into all the world. Little did I know that the specifics of this image would play out in Tim shortly thereafter meeting Phanuelle, his soon-to-be Haitian bride.
I was honored to be commissioned by Tim and Phanuelle to craft an image of blessing for them as a couple to tell God’s story of their partnership, and we prayerfully designed a new hybrid of my practices to include a combination of commission studio painting ahead of time mixed with live painting during the wedding weekend. In the above photo, you see the work as it was prepared before my journey north with my wife Kirsten for the wedding. Here I am in my groomsman’s tuxedo painting (that’s a first) prophetic images given during the rehearsal dinner: Phanuelle as a bird in her freedom and as a wellspring of life for Tim. Later, when we went to the reception and multiple fountains surrounded us in the ponds next to our venue, I could feel the Spirit winking at us.
Scripture compares the global Church to a Bride and Christ like the perfect Groom eagerly awaiting marriage. In the last few hours leading up to the Tim and Phanuelle’s marriage, emotions reached fever pitch (as all of us who have experienced this can remember- brides and grooms can seldom sleep the night before). It felt like a waking dream to be with Tim in the final moments before the wedding ceremony after so many years of prayer and longing, and I posed Tim as though he were lifting his bride’s veil, and painted him into the image during our final moments of the wait.
The ceremony was magical… and during the reading of an original poem, it struck me that the marriage of these two people was metaphorically embodying the reconciliation of races, the healing of America’s broken history of racism, and a parallel of Christ returning for his perfected Bride. In tribute to so many African Americans who were denied the right to legally marry until 1967, the newly married couple “jumped the stick” and leapt over a broomstick to proclaim their allegiance and solidarity to those in their heritage who had fought to make this day possible. With Phanuelle’s calling to go into law and public service, this was especially poignant. I took a twig from the broom, and embedded it onto the service of the painting under the feet of the couple, painting the broom into the final painting.
During the reception I had Tim and Phanuelle pose to complete Tim raising her veil. Between photos, drinks, conversations, and festivities, I snuck away to the patio to paint in the broom and Phanuelle as the Bride having her veil lifted… a tribute to the original revelation I had praying for Tim at Trinity Pawling- the image of Lausanne Pillar 2. As my gift that afternoon, I gave a print of Lausanne Pillar 2 to the couple. The day ended with me having the incredible privilege to conclude the speeches with a meditation on and description of the painting. As I brought the attendants through the painting, I was able, layer by layer, to tell the miraculous story of God’s goodness to this new couple, to awaken us to the prophetic elements we were experience in real time of God’s interaction with us through the wedding ceremony, and of the future hopes and desires for their life. This was a moment of sheer joy, as I am most fully alive when my creativity allows me to synthesize how this particular moment fits into God’s Metanarrative (eternity past to eternity future of God’s Story), and I knew it was the story Tim and Phanuelle most wanted to share that day. What a thrill to be a conduit of that story! What a joy to know that this will hang in their home as a permanent monument to God’s goodness; a catalyst of conversation and retelling of their story!
For those interested, here are a few more of the elements we chose to include in the painting as part of their story:
Tim has Mt. Washington of NH behind him, his New England heritage.
Phanuelle has a image of storm tossed Haitian palm trees behind her, the Caribbean queen that she is. These specific trees came from a painting I did live with Tim in watercolor while he and I sat on a roof watching an approaching rain storm in Port Au Prince, Haiti during our summer trip in 2016; a painting he owns and is already hanging in his home.
There are scenes from a construction zone in tribute to Tim’s proposal to Phanuelle in a construction zone where he pulled the car over to obey a prompt by the Holy Spirit that “Now” is the time and place to propose. Radical obedience as well as a wonderful symbol that the couple feels like their lives are wonderfully in flux and “under construction”.
Blueprints- as the Lord is architect of their life together and that their three central principles of “Love, Serve, and Give” be built into everything they do. The blueprints culminate in a castle- the coming Kingdom, and a reference to Tim’s great love: Tolkien and the white citadel of Gondor!
The Bird of Phanuelle’s free spirit and the well, a metaphor given by her father’s blessing during the rehearsal dinner.
The couple have their arms spread wide for their expansive and growing “Family”, and in red you can just make out silhouettes of the LARGE wedding party/ friends/ family members… “Family” of their wide arms of love.