Back in 2008, I took a dream trip to Italy for 10 days. Probably 10 of the most intensely beauty-filled days of my life. I spent much of my time in Rome but I feel as if I barely scratched the surface of all the amazing art there was to see in that city alone. One of the museums I picked to see was the Musei Capitolini. It housed several sculptures I was eager to see in person, although sadly Bernini’s Medusa was on loan to a museum in Venice. I didn’t realize, though, that there was a very nice collection of paintings on the top floor. Paintings are not its primary focus, so I did not expect to see the likes of the collection at the Galleria Borghese (which sadly I did not visit). But then I stopped in my tracks… a Caravaggio! Not one, but two! And… was that what I thought it was? A real Rubens! Cherubic Romulus and Remus in all their characteristically-Rubens, rolly-polly glory.
There were many other paintings as beautiful as the Caravaggios and the Rubens, and perhaps some I liked even better. Yet there was something special about seeing these. To stand a foot from the canvas (yes, there isn’t near the security in Italian museums as here in the States) and examine the brush strokes of these masters whose names had been part of my earliest, grade-school art history lessons. I think I got goosebumps, it felt almost surreal. Little me, standing in the same spot these men had stood when they painted these pictures. Certainly… these weren’t the most famous paintings these men had done. But they were works of the masters!
One of my favorite ways to think of God is as the Great Artist. When I see a brilliant sunset, I see a watercolor He’s splashed across the horizon. The craggy peaks of a mountain are His sculpture. Yet His grandest work… it’s His people. And the amazing thing about the Great Artist is that He creates no minor works. The thrill I felt standing before a small painting by Caravaggio or Rubens, not well known at all… that should be multiplied many times over when we look at His handiwork. Every one of His creations is a masterpiece!
Every one. I’m sure you can agree that your loved ones – your friends and your family – are masterpieces. But what about YOU? Do you believe you are God’s version of the Sistine Chapel? You are a signed, authentic work of the Master. You bear His image. You are His masterpiece.
Caravaggio - St. John the Baptist
Every now and then, a story makes a headline when someone discovers a great painter’s work in a forgotten attic or behind a less valuable painting. Can you imagine what it would be like to find a long-lost, perhaps never-known work of Monet or Rembrandt? Oh, the care that would go into restoring it! Millions of dollars… it would be stored in perfect conditions; many artisans would spend countless hours in painstaking, tedious restoration work.
We live in a fallen world. Every one of God’s masterpieces is in need of restoration. Good thing the Master Painter is ready and willing to breath new life into His creations. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to recognize His marred and damaged works. Yet… the brushstrokes are there. The signature is always visible. You may have to look closer, but it’s there. Nothing, not all the grime and filth and fading in the world can erase the Master’s touch.
Do you see the masterpiece? Let it thrill you when you look in the face of your wife, your boyfriend, your roommate, your son. Take a good look in the mirror and recognize His handiwork. But even more… I challenge you to look for the masterpiece in every person you encounter. The less-than-cordial clerk at Wal-Mart. The students misbehaving in your classroom. The coworker who you know will stab you in the back when you leave the break room. The homeless man panhandling at the busy intersection.
As you begin to see the masterpiece in those around you, open yourself up to the prompting of the Spirit. You never know when God will choose you as a tool in the restoration of another. And you just might find your own colors brightened and a layer of dust removed in the process!