Shared Purpose

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My wife and I recently went to The Speed Art Museum for a date day. The Speed has a variety of art styles spanning centuries of human history. One room or gallery will exhibit one style or era or culture’s art or art history, and when you turn the corner, you may walk into a room with a completely different feel, cultural background or context than the space you were in 30 seconds ago. There is a shift in perspective then, that is forced or coerced so that the visitor is taken on a journey throughout the breadth of human creativity.

While we were walking, my wife asked me if I thought that ‘high school me’ would have anywhere near the appreciation or understanding that I have today. And, of course, the answer would be no. I used to be very skeptical of ‘Modern’ art, and openly mocked efforts that I deemed possible for a toddler to reproduce. Even some classical art fell under my scrutiny for various reasons. I didn’t understand individual movements, let alone the progression from one form to another. I didn’t see value where I didn’t understand value to already exist.

Pictured here is Sfumato,by Teresita Fern├índez, a piece made very recently in 2005. It’s a simple piece containing glass cubes placed directly on the wall. It’s the type of piece that I would have seen in high school, thought was interesting, but would have passed over as being ‘actually art.’ It falls under the realm of ‘cool’ or ‘interesting’ but would not have left me with any more reaction than a passing glance would have afforded.

Today, as an adult (as someone who spent hours and hours in a humanities program in college and who is married to an art lover) I can see more clearly, and I can extend appreciation for art that doesn’t sit bounded in by a frame, for pieces that don’t require a Leonardo or a Pablo attached to it in order for me to see its value.

When I looked at Sfumato last week, I saw the church. I saw all the individuals who gather in Christ and who reflect and redirect His light. I saw individuals making up a collective whole. I saw individually crafted pieces, set in a particular way, that while they do not directly interact with one another, they complete a larger image. I saw people with different talents, different backgrounds, different cultures coming together. Remade, re-imagined and re-purposed by the one who is setting the scene of eternity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you turned one, twisted it, removed it or replaced it with something else…it would have been glaringly obvious. Each one has its place for a reason. Each one spaced closer to one and farther from another with a greater vision in mind.

I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My wife and I have different styles that appeal to us more so than another, and that’s totally fine. And she may look at Sfumato and see something totally different than what I see. But I see Romans 12 at work on a wall in a secular art museum.

I see the body of Christ being drawn in and carrying a single identity as she is in process of coming together. Each one sculpted according to one standard. I see as casting off of individual desire for a greater will. I see uniformity in purpose, a shared purpose. Each one receiving the same light, standing on the same pure white field, but still maintaining its own perspective, its own place and its own context while still pointing toward that overarching, external influence.

We all see different things from wherever we stand, but we who are in Christ must also keep in mind that the end result is not about us, but about God and what He is doing. He is the artist, we must trust in His plan.

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humility and accepting gifts

unmarked journal entry:

i try really hard not to be motivated to serve God out of selfishness, as in ‘what will God do for me because i’ve this thing.’ i am not seeking the praise of men, my ego doesn’t need the help, or serving God out of desire for riches here on earth. (just writing that feels slightly sanctimonious and arrogant.) but the truth of the matter is, i serve God out of love and appreciation not because i’m looking for something in return.

but when He speaks of blessings that come from service are we rejecting His gifts when we refuse to acknowledge them? are we spurning His love? am i hurting His heart? Father God, help me find the balance between proper, honorable humility and accepting your gifts as they come. this way, i may acknowledge both the gift and the giver, without taking any credit for myself. all glory & honor & praise be to You, my God and my King, for whom i pour out my life.

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side note:

by the time i got into high school, i had a pretty good grasp on the Scriptures when it came to basic themes, stories & events. and because of that, i was carrying an attitude with me into church each week. the attitude was your basic ‘try & teach me something new’ that was based out of arrogance. my pride was keeping me from coming before the throne on a weekly (or daily) basis. yes, i knew the basics of Scripture, but i had no idea how little i actually knew. thank God for perspective and a few good doses of humility in college. it’s not just a matter of having had more time to read and study, but to slowly come to that understanding that i am not, nor will i ever be God’s gift to humanity (not only in ministry, but in life in general) that was Jesus’ role…and to assume otherwise is a massive mistake based in pride.

so, i have a pretty good understanding of my failings now. i’m sure i will experience more…i’m good at that. but i must also be careful not to skip over the work of God in my day-to-day life. it’s an easy thing to publicly defame myself so that i can look humble. i can call myself out and point out each and every fault i have, and then maybe people will look at me, and say, ‘wow, he’s got it all together. he’s a righteous dude…’

and so, i’m seeking out that happy medium of proper humility and living in the strength and power of God so that, despite my failings, He can still use me for His purposes. it all needs to be about Him in every way possible. when i get myself out of the mix, all this will be much easier to get a handle on…”He must become greater, i must become less…” john 3:30