We have a painting hung in our lounge that I love, not because it’s a replica of a masterpiece, but rather because it’s personal.
It was painted by a friend of ours, Jean, and it depicts an image from a photograph taken of my wife Linda, whilst we were visiting New York back in 2012. The painting shows Linda seated near to the Brooklyn Bridge, looking across to Manhattan Island.
Every time I sit and gaze admiringly at the picture, my thoughts fill with memories of the wonderful time we spent together on holiday in the Big Apple. I also admire the painting because it’s a skill that has always been beyond me.
I recall an art lesson at school, when I was 13 years old, where we were given the task of drawing or painting something that represented chaos. As any self-respecting teenage lad would do, I decided to be ambitious and chose, unwisely as it turned out, to paint a car crash!
I’ve never forgotten the exasperated look of my art teacher as he stared at my finished creation, and with a huge sigh, expressed his considered opinion. “Smith,” he said, “that’s one of the worst pieces of art I’ve ever seen in my life”. “But it’s an accident, Sir”, I pleaded. “Yes,” he replied, “it most certainly is”.
When I think about famous artists from the pages of history, one name that springs to my mind is the 15th century Italian master, Leonardo Da Vinci, perhaps best remembered for creating the Mona Lisa.
Another masterpiece of his, the Last Supper, was commissioned by the Duke of Milan in the late 15th century, and was painted by Leonardo, intermittently, over a five-year period, on the end wall of the dining hall of the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan.
However, due to unfavourable conditions in that particular room, and also because the paint material used failed to adhere properly to the surface of the wall, the Last Supper has needed ongoing care and attention over the centuries by those able to clean and restore, but not alter, Da Vinci’s creation.
The work of another Italian master-painter, Michelangelo, who’s creative genius adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, has also needed the consistent care of restorationists over most of the last five centuries.
The man who led the most recent 14-year project, begun in 1980, to maintain this masterpiece of the Vatican Museums, chief restorer Gianluigi Colalucci, died last month, aged 92. But thanks to his skill and attention to detail, the artistic majesty of Michelangelo lives on, and continues to be enjoyed and admired.
The Bible tells me that what a restorer does for a work of art, the Lord Jesus can do in the lives of ordinary people, such as you and me. The dirt and grime of daily living takes its toll; we become wearied.
My life is also marred and stained by the mistakes I often make in my relationships (it’s what the Bible calls sin). I need the restorative work of a saviour. One such needy soul in the New Testament is the disciple Peter.
He messed up big-time when he lied repeatedly about his friendship with Jesus. He must have thought that his days of usefulness as a “fisher of men”, as the Lord had called him, had gone.
But a little while after the resurrection, during a breakfast-time chat by the Sea of Galilee, the Lord Jesus does a restoring work in this repentant saint’s life. Peter discovers that God repeatedly gives second chances to those who fail, when he’s recommissioned by Jesus to be a leader of the rag-tag group of believers that becomes the early Christian church.
You can read their conversation for yourself in chapter 21 of John’s gospel. In spiritual terms, restoration involves a renewal of strength and desire, as well as an experience of divine forgiveness, and it’s a work that the Lord is willing to do on a day-by-day basis, in every person’s life.
King David, another believer who recognised his need of the Creator’s rebuilding work, puts it plain & simple, in the familiar words of the 23rd Psalm: “the Lord is my shepherd; he restores my soul”.
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