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.

Two years ago, my daughter studied abroad in Jerusalem. Spending a semester with her favorite professor and some of her dearest friends in the Holy City was an opportunity she looked forward to and worked hard to create. However, the City of Peace turned out to be anything but. With the expected backdrop of Uzi-carrying military presence and constant turmoil one sees in the news, actually being there, she felt the most personal spiritual warfare she had ever experienced in her life.

I began this painting as a lament in response to her grief. The composition is from a photo she sent me of her rooftop view and was mostly off-whites and beiges typical of the local stone buildings. But 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.