The Truth in Art

I like the Bible. I like the whole story. To me the Bible is an extraordinary work of art, masterfully painted with exacting strokes, contrasting colors, and the most amazing Light source we could ever know. There are parts of this painting, certain parts of its composition that I don’t like in and of themselves; there are dark, foreboding shadows that I don’t even understand. However, when I see the finished piece, Genesis to the Revelation, I marvel at the simplicity and complexity.

Da Vinci's Last Supper

The first time I carefully studied The Last Supper (da Vinci) it came to life. I had seen a print of this famous work hanging in Grandma Caldwell’s dining room many, many years ago. I never knew why the disciples looked upset, I didn’t know the context. These days I have to be honest and admit that I don’t really like the painting, mainly because I don’t like this part of the Jesus story–I know the darkness that is soon to come. I do like the technical ability of da Vinci and am amazed at the creativity and skill it took to paint this story. Leonardo allows us to see biblical drama; he tells a story with his brush.

I have spent much of my Christian life just learning to see. That’s a request I share with a blind guy whose request of Jesus was simply, “Lord, I want to see.”  That’s a pretty good request, to see. The crazy thing about it is, Plato claimed we could only see lines and shapes; he was certain that true form was beyond our paltry five senses. I suppose he was correctly guessing that there must be something more, something eternal. The theme of our humanity is just that, there must be something more. The Scripture explains it this way, “God has placed eternity in our hearts.”

I’ve often thought of my life as a painting.  For one thing, that’s the only way I can understand my choices against God’s almighty plan.

I choose, but God sees all of me including my birth, paying taxes, and death.  He sees it all at once. Meanwhile I must live it out, stroke by stroke. As my life is being painted I’ve rather enjoyed the soft, warm strokes, those warm colors and lighter hues. They feel good. But I have not enjoyed contrast, the rough textures of pain and sorrow. I have lived for days-on-end when darkness created a feeling of chaos and confusion, only to understand the meaning of   tribulation as the Master outlined my experience with His brilliant color of love.

And speaking of His love, I believe all great art — all creative expression — is the result of passion. Come to think of it, a black and white picture may be effective, but it rarely expresses passion. I love passion on the stage, and I want my music performed with passion. The human experience, our story, is a history of passion. Unfortunately a lot of that passion has made the world a rather dangerous place. I agree with Ice T, “Passion makes the world go round. Love just makes it a safer place.”

Love gives me perspective. The love of God gives my values both line and shape; the love of God gives my line and shapes their value. Huh? If I “walk the line” and shape my life to please God, I do so because He first loved me that I may love Him. I don’t obey or do things because I have to, but because I want to.

The crazy thing about it is that Plato was almost right. He erred in that he could not reconcile the human body (the material) becoming the eternal form. Plato did not know that Jesus would make all things new. He could not know that our being and our bodies could be resurrected. He did not know that God was in the business of transforming all things–of redeeming them unto Himself.

Mother Teresa

And when I think about my life, I think that this is the true beauty of knowing God as your Artist.  You trust and see how he faithfully brings all pieces together to create a beautiful whole.  You know, I’d like to be a brilliant brush stroke in God’s masterpiece, maybe a vibrant white like Mother Teresa, or a passionate red like Martin Luther, or a golden overlay like C.S. Lewis. But the Master may decide that he needs a dab of grey to bring in just the right outline or shadow to the masterpiece.  And if that’s what He needs me to be, then I’m in… because what I want is to be part of HIS painting.  The title of this work is Jesus Christ, and that’s what I want people to see.