Tender Defeat, Holy Week Reflection

Holy Week reflection

Kellen Pocock Art Show at Hopper and Burr

This past Friday evening Kellen debuted his newest piece, Tender Defeat, a bright and deeply moving digital illustration. While I was asking Kellen about the message behind this piece he brought me to tears. This is a deeply personal image with a theme of God’s grace defeating our works righteousness. The broken swords and the male figure laying immobile in the sand strongly remind the viewer of our own fight, our proud attempts at self-salvation, or in theological terms, the Theology of Glory. Kellen told me he was heavily inspired by Mockingbird Ministries message of grace; from the Mockingbird website, “One hallmark of theologies of glory is unwillingness to acknowledge honestly the reality of ongoing sin and lack of visible transformation in Christians. A sign that you are operating with a theology of glory is when your faith feels like a fight against these realities instead of a resource for accepting them.”

Tender Defeat asks us, the viewer, to consider our own swords and our feeble attempts at salvation. When we give up our striving we can then accept “a theology of the cross, [which] by contrast, accepts the difficult thing rather than immediately trying to change it or transmute it. It looks directly into pain, and ‘calls a thing what it is’ instead of calling evil good and good evil. It identifies God as ‘hidden in [the] suffering’.

In the center of Tender Defeat we see a figure kneeling down beside the lifeless figure in the sand, this crouching figure uniquely has a whisp of fire or wind above his head. Is it the God of the burning bush, or the Holy Spirit in the wind? This mysterious form is coming down to be with the suffering figure who has been defeated.

It is in our pain and defeat where we can be comforted by God, by his unwavering love towards us.  Even while we are sinful, he gave us the gift of salvation through his Son, Christ Jesus.

“Everything that Jesus has done, said, and undergone is meant to show us that the love we most long for is given to us by God, not because we deserve it, but because God is a God of love…. God has become human — that is, God-with-us, in order to show us that the anxious concern for recognition and the violence among us spring from a lack of faith in the love of God. If we had a firm faith in God’s unconditional love for us, it would no longer be necessary to be always on the lookout for ways of being admired by people, and we would need, even less, to obtain from the people by force what God desires to give us so abundantly.” -Henri Nouwen, Letters to Marc

Let this Holy Week be a reminder of our failure to earn salvation and love; we are prideful sinners, but we must not be despondent.

Instead we may rejoice, when we collapse at the feet of God with all our pain, shame, anxiety, and sin, it is in our brokenness that God can truly love us without restraint.


Today is Maundy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, coming from the new command, or mandate Jesus gave his disciples:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Jesus himself was defeated on the Cross for our salvation. In response to his deeply painful act of love let us not go back to our old ways of earning salvation through works and self-righteousness, but instead let us show love to one another boldly, just as Jesus did to us. Not because we earn it, but because God is a God of love, and we are in need of His love.


Happy Birthday, Kellen! 

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2 responses to “Tender Defeat, Holy Week Reflection”

  1. Beautiful Holy Week reflection Jenoa! I appreciate it on so many levels. It fed me today as I'm working on messages this week to feed others. I'd like to share it with “Living Lutheran.”


  2. Thanks Pastor Marty!!


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