Longing for Home

Christinas World Wyeth

Meet Christina. A young woman in a stark landscape. You can sense a story is unfolding here, a mystery perhaps. Why is she in the middle of the field? What is she staring at, or waiting for? Is her upper body tense with longing, or with fear?

Anna Christina Olson, the subject of this painting, was a neighbor of the artist, Andrew Wyeth. In her 30s, she became crippled due to a degenerative muscular disorder and had no use of her legs. She didn’t use a wheelchair and crawled where she needed to go. The sight of Olson picking blueberries while crawling through her fields “like a crab on a New England shore” inspired Wyeth to paint Christina’s World. He said in a letter to the Museum of Modern Art, where the painting resides, that Christina is “limited physically but by no means spiritually. The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless.”

This painting captivates me for many reasons, but one reason is because it tugs at a long-buried sense of loneliness and insignificance from my past. The ranch I grew up on was four miles out of town, and as a youngster, I ached to go to town to be with my friends. I was sure they were having the time of their lives, hanging out and laughing, while I stuck where I was, wishing and waiting for someone to remember me, come down the road, and pick me.

Sometimes we may feel like we are laying in a field. Our limits may not be physical like Christina’s, but events of life can leave us “crippled,” feeling forgotten and insignificant. But God holds out the promise that, in spite of our longings, hope is within reach. In fact, our longings may be just what turns our face towards home and drive us forward. 

There is an old Jewish proverb that suggests every believer should have two pieces of paper with him or her at all times. One has written upon it, “I am dust and ashes.” A reminder of Ash Wednesday. The other has written upon it, “For me, the world was created.” The goal of the former is to keep us grounded in the reality that life is fleeting and full of longing. The goal of the latter is to remind us how much we are loved and valued, and that we will never be forgotten.

Being Human connection: Yes, we are dust, but we are also immensely, immeasurably, and incredibly loved.

Featured image: Andrew Wyeth, Christina’s World, 1948, Museum of Modern Art, New York