I delivered a reflection on this painting this evening at a Taize service at my church. My text is below the painting – I haven’t edited it from the way I delivered it so it is written in a different style to my usual stuff. I hope it speaks to you.
Foxes: Vermin? Or victim?
Hunter? Or hunted?
Predator? Or parasite?
When we think of foxes we perhaps think of the storybook fox, the Aesop’s fable fox offering a sneaky lift across the river with the Gingerbread Man on his back. Maybe we think of the children’s character Basil Brush. All cute and cuddly maybe, but each with their own streak of cunning and wiliness.
We perhaps might think of the rural fox and his place in the so-called entertainment of others – horses, red coats, hunting horn, beagles…
We might think of the urban fox, skinny, frightened, foraging for food in gardens and bins. Occasionally overstepping the mark and attacking people in their homes and children in their beds if reports are to be believed.
Like us, the fox is made up of different things: he is sometimes two sides of the same coin. Who of us can say we are wholly one thing or another? Sometimes we are the victim, sometimes we are the hunter. Most times we are a combination of everything the fox embodies.
In this picture we see Jesus with three foxes. We see them in three very different ways – we see the face of one, the tail end of another, and we see the back of the head of the third. Jesus has his arms flung wide and is embracing them all, no matter how they are relating to him.
The power of three at work in the picture – three foxes, three poses. We even see three of Jesus’ hands and feet (one is hidden under his tunic). A classic device in art and literature but one that speaks volumes to us as Christians.
So which one of the foxes are you? Are you the one sat at Jesus’ feet, facing him, keen to hear his every word? Eager and alert, ready for action?
Or are you the one tucked under Jesus’ arm? Secure in your den, looking out at the world confident that Jesus is there and shielding you from the danger and harm outside.
Maybe you see yourself as the one disappearing from view, showing your back to the world. Maybe you are hiding from something, maybe you are desperate for refuge from something, maybe right at this moment you simply don’t want to see Jesus.
Look at the picture and where Jesus’ attention is focused.
Yes he is shielding the – possibly injured – fox in its den but he is ignoring him, as he is ignoring the one sat at his feet. Jesus is looking at and speaking to the one who is trying to get away and hide, the one who doesn’t want to see him.
There is something of all of us here in this picture. Maybe we see ourselves as one of the foxes in its totality, maybe you are a composite of all three.
There are times when we see ourselves at Jesus’ feet, keen, eager, ears pointed and waiting for the cue to spring into action. Full of energy, full of zest, heart and soul overflowing with the Holy Spirit, joyous in our lives and ready for anything.
There are times too when things are not so positive and we may want to turn away from Jesus… when life gets too hard to endure – illness, bereavement, injustice, repression all mount up and we just don’t want to know our Saviour.
We sometimes need the rest and respite that time at home in our den brings us, secure in the knowledge that Jesus has his arms out ready to keep us safe.
However we identify ourselves, and whichever of these foxes we align ourselves to, we know that Jesus is there for us in whatever capacity we need him to be.
Teacher, protector, calling us to his side, Jesus is there no matter how we see him and no matter how fox-like we are.