Updated: May 8
“Out of whose womb came the ice? And the hoary frost of Heaven, who hath gendered it? The waters are hid as with a stone. And the face of the deep is frozen.” -Job 38:29-30
After the ship sank, Shackleton gave strict orders to the crew that they must strip down their belongings to only the barest essentials. He exhorted them to get rid of any ounce of unnecessary weight, regardless of how valuable it was. To emphasize his point, he took out a gold cigarette case and several gold sovereigns from his pocket and threw them on the ground. Then he took the bible that Queen Mother Alexandra had given the crew as a parting gift and ripped out Psalm 23 and the verse above from the book of Job. He kept these pages, but laid the bible down in the snow and walked away.
It's interesting to me that Shackleton kept these particular pages. I've always struggled with the book of Job, but the older I get, I'm seeing how suffering and loss and giving things up can lead to greater dependence on my Creator. It has a way of stripping you down to a place of rawness where parts of you that you didn't even know were there start to emerge--both good and bad. It sifts you, it refines you, and afterward, you aren't the same person any more. You've been transformed.
Today at church, the guest speaker, Brian Wells, shared a scripture from Romans 5 that really fits Shackleton's journey:
". . . we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Brian Wells talked about this scripture from Romans in light of the universal story arc of the hero's journey--a very well known format used by writers who make so many of our favorite films. Shackleton definitely fits that story arc: he had a dream, he had help with pursuing the dream, and he encountered unbelievable obstacles and failures, to the point of near death several times, and the experience forever changed him.
In Shackleton's words: "We had seen God in His splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of man."
The iceberg is a powerful metaphor for the great mystery that lies beneath what can be seen. I fell in love with a photo by Frank Hurley of an iceberg that looked to me like a brain. So I searched and searched and found an image of an iceberg that reminded me of a heart. In our Western culture, we tend to emphasize the brain and intellect and often the heart remains buried and unknown. For this painting, I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of the brain and heart being connected, as well as to somehow express the 'naked soul of man' and 'the face of the deep'. It seems to me that the tip of the iceberg and the great depth of its origins are interdependent . . . we often never know the depths of struggle that someone has endured in order for them to be who we see on the surface.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” –Proverbs 4:23