This Advent season, we are collectively wrestling with the fact that the in-breaking of God in the midst of a traumatized world rarely occurs in predictable, easy ways. Instead, Incarnation turns the world upside down, and we are left undone. Here, Lisa Daley, second-year MA in Counseling Psychology student, shares a stunning painting—a surprising, beautiful portrait of Jerusalem— that reflects her own experience of feeling unfinished, caught in the present tension between the birth of Christ and the restoration of all things.

Advent usually makes me think of Bethlehem, but this year, it is Shalom I long for.

I began this piece as a lament in response to the impotence I feel in the face of my own anxiety and grief. The composition is from a photo of Jerusalem that was mostly off-whites and beiges typical of the local stone buildings. Yet, the centuries of violence and bloodshed are almost palpable in every nook and cranny in this sacred place. This painting remains an unfinished work joining several other unfinished paintings in my studio. Normally there is a sense of gratification in getting to the place where I like every inch of a painting and can let it rest, or call it “done.” But it is this undone one that continues to arrest my attention.

Somehow its unfinished-ness mirrors for me the sense of already and not yet—that place of acknowledging what has been while still longing for what is to come. So I offer this alternate rendering of the city of Shalom as a fitting Advent lament, both in celebration of God’s coming and awaiting God’s coming again, longing for peace in the midst of chaos and heartache.

Painting by Lisa Daley. Click for full image.