Similarly different

September 16, 2020 · Print This Article

I am planning to visit Liverpool sometime in October, and one of the reasons I want to do that is to spend some time on Crosby Beach. I have been there before; it is along the northern banks of the Mersey estuary – a town of large, beachfront houses with echoes of a more prosperous past. The beach is over one and a half miles of light brown sand, muddy at the water’s edge and stretching back to pale yellow sand dunes, topped by untidy tufts of coarse grass. The cranes of Liverpool Docks mark the end of the beach, sharing space with slowly turning wind turbines. Across the estuary you can make out the blue-grey bulks of the mountains in North Wales.

When I last visited it, the beach was deserted – except for the art installation I had come to see. ’Another Place’ is the creation of artist Anthony Gormley – most famous for the ‘Angel of the North’. Over the endless expanse of sand were one hundred cast iron statues – life-size images of the artist himself, scattered over the length and breadth of the beach. Some were partly submerged with waves breaking over them. Others were buried up to their knees in sand. All steadily regarded the water out to sea, to ‘Another Place’.

The images had been created identically, from the same mould, in the image of the artist. Each was mounted on a 3 metre metal pillar sunk into the sand, all facing the same way. And having observed one, you would have thought that was enough. I could have left the windy beach and found a café for lunch.

Something made me walk over to the next one – and then the next – and the next. I confirmed to myself they were identical, but then I noticed the differences. Barnacles clung to some, but in different patterns. Seaweed hung from others, but from different places. The salt sea had etched different patterns of rust in the passive figures. They were made in the same image but the shifting waves, the moving sand, the sun, the rain – and people – had worked on each one differently. Each statue existed in a unique environment and each had become different.

We are told that we are created in the image of God. We are all made in the same image but God does not deal with any of us in the same way. Parents know they love their children equally but sometimes very differently. How can we argue with God who has placed us somewhere in the sand, where he chooses? We might be a long way out, in deep and turbulent waters that sometimes break over our heads. We might look back at those further up the beach – closer to home – where waves are more benign and gentle, and wonder why things can’t be easier for us. If we compare ourselves to others, taking our attention away from the relationship with the being who created us, we are brought back to a conversation that the resurrected Jesus had with Peter over breakfast on the beach. He had shared with Peter the nature of the death he would suffer as a result of preaching the gospel, and Peter wanted to know if the disciple John was going to suffer in the same way. Christ’s answer shows the danger of comparing ourselves to others, and what our priority should be: When Peter saw him (John), he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”[1]

Maggie Mitchell

Maggie is an editor at Because

[1] The Bible, John 21:21-22

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