Three hours passed very quickly while we alternately nailed down last details, finished dinner, and talked with some of the crowd that was gathering. As we watched the performances of musician and dancer, we prayed. I rehearsed the graffiti wall in my head.
Our theme was Beauty in Brokenness. The ultimate example: Christ on the cross. A brutal death, a horrific event, yet beautiful in the sacrifice of love it represented, and what it accomplished—reconciliation with God, entry into eternal life.
We were to be the grand finale in the evening of music, dance, and personal testimonies. Bill shared his testimony of near-suicide; Marcia shared about surviving an abusive marriage, yet receiving four beautiful daughters. Another member of the team shared of years spent chasing women, drugs, and fast cars, ending up in prison, and finding Christ in his brokenness.
When we asked the Hungarians what one word expressed this concept, they replied csodálatos(cho-DAL-a-tosh)—which we might translate weakly in English as ‘wonderful’, but a rich Hungarian word with double meaning: wonderfulness and miracle-fulness. It might be used, for example, to express the wonder of birth. Even as the Hungarians say the word, it is with a slight smile, a softening in the eyes, and a sense of awe.
In one of those ironies of language, I realized it was also a name of God (Isaiah 9:6). For our purposes, I don’t think we could have found a more potent word. It became the signature element in our graffiti wall, and would become an invitation into the miracle and wonder of spiritual birth.
At the keyboard, Bill played the interlude that signaled the transition from a dance to our graffiti wall. Two dancers would finish us in the execution of the canvas. They quickly changed while we took our positions, joining us behind the canvas. I was positioned to the left of the canvas, cell phone timer in hand, so I could see both those painting and those about to paint. I eyed the canvas, left and right, dancers and artists behind it, like race horses at the starting gate. An excited crowd watched in front, filled with anticipation. I hit the timer and signaled the first dancer out, then the first two artists.
As the first stencil went up and the spraying began, I watched in horror as a gust of wind took the paint every which way but on the canvas. Uh oh….
Soon the spray paint was a cloud over the artists, spraying for all they were worth. Did we have enough paint for this?! I watched the worried looks on their faces, the looks of those waiting in the wings, eager to go, the timer ticking way too fast. This wasn’t going well.
Time for the next set of dancer and artists. Oops…well, one artist got away from me before my signal, ahead of the dancer, who looked at me with a question. Before I could improvise, another artist burst out unexpectedly. Ooops…spray paint was flying all over the artists and dancers; Bill was looking at me for signals, and the timer went off. I signaled Bill to keep playing, then snuck over to the keyboard to explain we had two more sequences to go.
Bill bent over the keyboard so we could have a quick consult behind the canvas. We revised the ending, and he kept playing. We watched from behind the canvas as Jacob went around—adding the highlights. I could see him doing more than highlights, and was grateful that he knew the most about graffiti probably than any of us. Hmmm…a lot of red was going up. He was no doubt ‘fixing’ a lot of mistakes. We were two minutes overtime. But finally Jacob finished, and we heard a mighty war whoop cheer go up. Csodalatosh!!!
To thunderous applause, we came out from behind the canvas and took a bow, seeing for the first time what the canvas looked like. There it was! The culmination of the week’s work, and everyone was going wild. Not quite what we envisioned, but beautiful. We could see all the mistakes, but no one else knew them.
Bill came around and invited the audience to consider the beauty and the brokenness. Who would acknowledge their own brokenness and accept the beauty of the cross, of what Jesus had allowed himself to be broken for? Who would come and put their handprint on the wall as a symbolic act of entering the journey of the cross?
Marcia and Melissa positioned themselves with green paint for the handprints. Would anyone come forward? And would they do so for the right reasons, not just the chance to put some paint up? Bill reiterated the criteria and we waited—for a split second—and then the crowd began to move. Two young men, arm in arm, came up. A steady stream of mostly young people followed, with some older ones. A homeless man cheered from the side of the stage. Some in tears, some smiling, some hesitant, joyful. The stage was full, and the canvas was soon covered with green handprints.
Miracle and wonder. Many new births.