THE ART MUSEUM
I recently visited The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, where my daughter lives. I was impressed by the expanse and variety of creative expression in the galleries. My education in art is limited and I am not an artist, so I simply enjoyed how this or that craftsman or craftswoman captured—or created—light, how he/she used color, and how each one presented subject matter in oil, acrylic, bronze, silver, and myriad other media.
I savored the Willem Heda still life depicting the remains of a meal consisting of ham, oysters, wine and one, half-peeled lemon, its rind curling gracefully down from the edge of a table spread with a white cloth reflecting the soft, late-afternoon sun of one particular day in the year 1656.
I puzzled over a Jackson Pollack quest to capture the energy of the creative process via a small, 3-D creation—in string!
I was mesmerized by the gleaming elegance of a 16 ½-inch high, sterling silver ginger jar (Bodendieck, 1677-78) richly embossed with masks and floral designs.
All of this got me to thinking about God’s “art,” specifically, “us,” and I thought about His art “media”.
According to Genesis chapter one, the Spirit of God hovered over the first ever tabula rasa, the original, pristine state of things. There, He began work on His “canvas”: first, light to contrast the darkness (day and night); then water and sky; then dry ground; then vegetation; then “lights in the expanse” of the sky (one, greater, one, lesser); then fish, birds, and living creatures on the land. And lastly, one man and one woman.
But as opposed to museums where visitors are to avoid touching or in any way disturbing the valuable creations housed therein, God brought mankind into the panoply of His handiwork not just to view it but to take part in it—to be part of it.
God invited us not just to appreciate His craft, so to speak, but to interact with it, benefit by it—and add to it. He designed us to walk amid His glory in the flora and fauna, the beauties and the beasts, to be nourished in body, mind, and spirit by them, and to multiply our own kind.
There would be only one rule amid His creation, of course, but, sadly, the temptation to break it proved too much and for the very first time, even in the beauty of unspoiled paradise, man marred God’s masterpiece. Fortunately, God had a plan to fix that.
I once heard a minister say that when God looks at believers He sees Jesus. Even as we look in a mirror and see only the scrapes and scuffs of a work in progress and/or the scars of the struggle, God sees His Son in Whom we are “new creatures.” As Saint Paul put it, “therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV).
At the intersection of time and eternity we are at once in media res on earth and “seated in the heavenlies” with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) via the unmerited favor of our Creator who works, in this case, not in oils, marble, or mixed media but in grace. Unmerited favor. A gift for the yielding. And for those who will stop a moment to pause and ponder this, the Artist of artists provides myriad clues. As the Apostle Paul wrote “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made […]” (Romans 1:20, NIV).
Here, the play of light on a late afternoon or early morning or mid-day scene inspires an artist to capture the perfection or the mystery of it while, with God in mind, an observer considers light of another sort: the light of clarity, revelation, truth.
There, the 3-D expression of a quest to capture the moment of creation itself prompts the observer to consider the limitations of dimensions in the finite world, the possibility of unlimited dimensions in another.
And over there, an ordinary, everyday object like a spice container in an art museum is transformed by both maker and medium to a work of art both useful and exquisite, gleaming in its glory. And the observer is reminded of the spiritual transformation of a man and a woman from renegade to redeemed, lost to found, fallen to saved by faith in the One Who worked in the media of His body and blood on a cross at Calvary. In other words: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever shall believe in Him shall have eternal life” (John 3:16).
As a craftsman working in words, so to speak, let me invite you to pause and ponder here for a while, to consider not just the created (in all its temporal glory) but the Creator (in His eternal glory).
Let me invite you to stop in the midst of the thousand things that demand your focus in this highly distracted and distractable world and read the extraordinary messages between the ordinary lines, shapes, and colors of the gallery called your world.
Where do YOU stop to ponder? The colors of a sunset? The expanse of the ocean? The world revealed through the lens of a microscope? The length, depth, and breadth of the responses of the human heart? Or, perhaps, your gaze is held by the face of your infant, lately from the hand of God in the silent formations of the womb—to your waiting arms. (Behold, what have we here? Mom’s chin, Dad’s nose, Grandpa’s brown eyes—and even for this brand new little one, a fast-growing love as deep and mysterious as the heavens…).
And, as you pause and ponder, consider this:
God is not a ball of string (or a string theory), an empty jar (or discarded clay pot), nor is He a banquet past that we can only imagine and try to replicate on canvas with what artistic skill we can muster. But He is a present feast extending this invitation even today: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” (Psalm 34:8).
For His gaze, beloved, is upon you.
 Other ways to know and understand God include our conscience, God’s Word, written and spoken, and dreams and visions (see Job chapter 33).
Images from the public domain