There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch
© 1994 Ginger Henry Geyer
glazed porcelain with platinum detail
7” x 7 ½” 4”
Adaptation from Matthias Grunewald's Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece,
I am always glad when school's out because I can quit packing lunchboxes for awhile. There's so few things you can put in one---has to be portable, not too messy, unrefrigerated, something a picky kid will eat in a hurry. So I modeled a lunchbox after a red Garfield one my son used to tote. It needed a superhero on the front--originally an image of my husband taking out the laundry came to mind. Then he got bumped by an insistent image of the Crucifixion which I had internalized since childhood--Grunewald's gruesome Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece. Why this one, I do not know. Nourishment through surrender? Emptying the self? (since this lunchbox is empty) A portable feast? (since many altarpieces were portable) Inclusive communion vs. "bring your own lunch"? Or is it God who is hungry? After painting the scene on the lunchbox, a cliche floated in that named it: There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Gads, how corny. Then I realized it might refer to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer termed "cheap grace"...taking the freebie without the accompanying discipline and obedience.
After painting the lunchbox, I was wildly fortunate to see the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmar, France. Its presence is unforgettable, and as my art historian friend reminds me, it had a profound effect on its original audience: horribly ill outcasts housed in a 16th century hospital. These patients had a disfiguring, deadly disease called St. Anthony's fire, and were paraded before this Crucifixion to recall Christ's misery on their behalf. It may be hard for some of us today, who are busy, well, and privileged, to be truly motivated by such suffering, or to connect it with love.
To quote my minister in a recent church newsletter, "Mr. Wesley's advice to the people called Methodists was simple: The love you have received? Start giving it away in like kind as soon as possible. You are not ready, you do not understand, the world around you is not ready? His reply: start giving it away anyway. Yes, God's grace received through the Cross of Christ is free, completely free. But it is not cheap. It is free, but it ends up costing us the whole of our lives." (J. Charles Merrill, 3-28-97)
One last note about lunchboxes: kids invariably share their contents with one another; some even give away the whole thing.