Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Lesson in Art Appreciation

Earlier this month, I got a lesson in seeing Jesus by way of a lesson about art appreciation.

I have the privilege of being part of a group blog project that has recently launched, called Pick Your Portion. Lisa Velthouse (you may remember my review of her memoir) has gathered a group of writers and artists around the M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan. Each weekday, one of the women offers an article or a piece of artwork as a reflection on one of that day's Scripture readings.

I love the concept, and I've been excited to see what the various women have come up with. The art contributions especially intrigue me, since I am decidedly *not* an artist.

True confession: When I first glanced at the painting published as a response to Ezekiel 34, I thought it looked like a sloppy mess--the kind of thing highbrow art critics applaud, but regular people like me find difficult to appreciate.

But before clicking away, I scrolled down to the comments and saw two other contributors effusively praising it, remarking thoughtfully. “This is beautiful. So beautiful,” the first one said. Really?! I thought, eyebrows raised in disbelief. The commenter continued, saying the painting “reminds me of the trust required if we are to fully see God’s blessings as the gifts they are. Sometimes his work of provision in our life feels a little scary—a little wild and uncontrolled. But, wow, is it beautiful.”


The second commenter weighed in: “There’s so much movement in this, and at the same time, there’s something subdued about it too. So often I think God’s blessings should come at me like a crash—and they do, but it always looks a little quieter than I initially expected. I love the way this art is helping me think about God’s showers of blessing.”

Well, I thought. Clearly these women are more mature than me, more humble, able to see God’s truth everywhere. They have eyes to appreciate what was certainly a careful piece of work, not a haphazard creation, however it may initially appear.

I scrolled back up to reconsider, and I saw the tree, bent over with the weight of all this color. Showers of blessing. How often does my life look like a mess? I can’t see or make sense of what God is up to in all this. But if His grace is all these colors running together, my tree can hardly be seen for the abundance of it. He overwhelms my life with grace. At first glance, His blessings don’t always seem beautiful. Some are dark, streaked with pain. He pours out grace that humbles, bends these branches low.

Clearly it takes the skill of a practiced, careful painter to make a painting like this. It takes the vision of a creative, talented artist to produce deliberate strokes, layered with meaning. I am not an artist; I have no idea how pieces like this are created, how beauty is brought from a blank canvas and some paints, a brush, a cup of clear water.

And I am not the Artist, the Storyteller, the Creator whose thoughts and ways are far above my own. Dare I ever call the holy masterpiece He is producing ugly? Dare I pronounce his downpour of blessings a mess?

Life is a beautiful mess: because He is beautiful and I am a mess. And He hides the tree of me in the brilliantly colorful glory of His Son, grace running off the page because my one life is too small to contain it.

In the end I was amazed by the painting after all, and it indeed helped me think about God’s showers of blessing in ways I did not imagine. I thanked the artist, for sharing her gift, and the commenters, for setting a reflective example that made me look twice so I didn’t miss beauty.

Fine art isn't made to be glanced at and passed over. I imagine its creators intend for viewers to gaze carefully, linger long, reflect. Similarly, the value of the masterpieces God is at work producing in this broken world can't be immediately discerned with a casual glance. Sometimes we have to look long and hard to see Jesus; sometimes we have to admit He does not look like what we expect. But He is there, and He is beautiful--and unlike with fine art, which is arguably subjective, if ever I do not find His work stunning, the problem is my blindness.

 [This post is part of the series "31 Days of Seeing Jesus"--click here for a list of all posts.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

This makes me smile. Isn't it fun to see how someone else's perspective can help us appreciate a passage differently, maybe even more?