On the Inside Exhibition

I had the honor of hosting a small exhibition at my InterVarsity chapter’s 10 year reunion at the University of Oklahoma. My dear friend Jacob Cullum displayed some photographs and I showed some works on paper. I was very satisfied with the show overall because it seemed to help students and alumni savor the good things from our the chapter over the years, which is exactly the kind of thing I want to do with my art.

Here are some images and the text I read to introduce the show:

“In his essay The Inner Ring,  C.S. Lewis identifies an elusive and enticing kind of social circle. This highly desirable group he calls the Inner Ring.This ring usually overlaps only in part with officially defined social hierarchies. There are the clearly defined roles of students and teachers, and then there are, ‘the guys who hang out in the physics room after school’. There are bosses and employees, and there are, ‘those who are in the office betting pool about whether the company will go over budget again this quarter.’ Lewis explains to us, “You are never formally and explicitly admitted by anyone. You discover gradually, in almost indefinable ways, that it exists and that you are outside it; and then later, perhaps, that you are inside it.” Lewis spends much of the essay warning his readers against the temptation to make poor moral choices in order to gain access into the Inner Ring. In Lewis’ own words, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.”

It’s wise to be on guard against compromise in favor of the Inner Ring. Desire to belong runs deep and has the power to move us before we know it. But I am stopped at the magnitude of the human desire to belong. The heartbreak of that craving. Anything that can elicit emotion on that degree is worth taking careful look at. Anything we want on that level has something to do with God’s goodness, even if the desire got twisted somewhere along the way.

Just as the inner ring’s power to destroy is very bad, when the ring is good, it’s very good.

In the novel IT by Stephen King, he writes the experience of a boy who has just been accepted into what is lovingly nicknamed “The Losers Club”

“A child blind from birth doesn’t even know he’s blind until someone tells him. Even then he has only the most academic idea of what blindness is; only the formerly sighted have a real grip of the thing.  Ben Hanscom had no sense of being lonely because he had never been anything but.”

In that sweet place of belonging, parts of us we didn’t know were dead, come back to life. We don’t know we are missing true community, until we find it in it’s most vibrant form, and then we discover we had been made for it very long ago.

Belonging, makes us swell with our own identifies. We say things in the small hours of the morning we didn’t know how long we had been hoping to say. Belonging makes us loud and expressive, losing our inhibitions. And it makes us serene. Taking the time to observe the humans around us, and inevitably finding out just how interesting they are. Belonging makes us feel safe enough to be curious. With the comfort of our people, we are free to ask the hard questions with impunity. And if we keep asking, and truly desiring the truth, we find Jesus himself.

How absurd that this chapter, our chapter, made this good inner ring, such a reality. While I know my experience in the chapter was just as characteristically flawed as any human group, the wonder was I somehow knew what kind of beast it would be in its most perfect form. And I’ll know it when I see it again. Now I know how much potential there is for human connection, and I know the flavor of human connection that’s waiting for us in all of its richness in the place where Christ is finally King.

This art exhibition is meant to mark the significance of the effortless community that characterizes the OU at IV Chapter. It will hopefully help you take a look at the anomaly of a community that functions somewhat as it should. It’s about the experience of divine belonging, that doesn’t just bring us to introspection, to discover others, or be open to the spiritual, but is also an end in itself. Even while it empowers us, it is, by itself, good, complete, satisfactory.”

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