by Deirdre Mansel
My husband and I recently took a drive to Savannah for a long awaited visit to the Telfair Museum of Art to see their collection of Impressionist style oil paintings of foreign and local artists.
The area called the rotunda has a high ceiling and a number of very large, poignant oil paintings. The room is somewhat dim with a hushed atmosphere and spotlights illuminate the paintings around the room. There are several battle scenes including a portrait of an English family who has just received news of the death of a loved one on the battlefield.
On one side of the rotunda are two large sister paintings that make up a presentation called Parablos, or Parable. The one on the left depicts young women walking up the steps and onto a porch with bright colors and a festive feeling. At the doorway are two young men who are totally captivated by the young women.
By contrast, the man in the doorway on the other painting is completely indifferent to the women next to him. The women increase in age across the porch and down the steps. The painting is almost drained of color and depicts an intense feeling of sadness and loss.
Many people pass through this room each day and most pause only briefly without taking a second look into the deep and intense feelings of the portraiture. Each detail of the painting is necessary for a complete study of the painting.
The scene in the room also portrays the hurried pace of our lives. How often do we pause to appreciate the works of the Creator in the beautiful scenes around us? The artists certainly did as they made an oil and canvas representation. How often do we pause to appreciate the relationships that God has blessed us with in our friends and families? How often do we pause to explore the deeper meaning of what we might read, be it fiction, non-fiction or God’s word?
Often, we seek out books that give us a short but sweet devotional. We might read a verse or two only glossing over the surface of the message. Who wrote that passage? What does it mean? What did God intend us to learn from it?
To fully appreciate the paintings, we need to know some things about the artist who worked so painstakingly with each stroke of the brush to blend the colors into a coherent and meaningful representation. By understanding the era that he or she lived in and the political and social nature of that era we can begin to delve into the message the artist intended to capture on the canvas. We also need to study every meticulosity and nuance.
As we study God’s word, we need to understand the writer and the context. We need to look at each word carefully and thoughtfully; even the small ones we tend to skip over as we speed read the text. Each word is a part of the puzzle that presents a complete picture.
As in the painting, missing the letter the woman gripped in her hand as she leaned her head on the table with the military medal lying before her, one would not realize the reason for her deep grief.
As we study God’s word, we should pause, take a deep breath, and allow the complete picture to come into focus. Then as we continue about our daily routines, we can reflect on what we have studied and read in prayerful meditation.
Deirdre is the wife of Forthright assistant editor, Richard Mansel. She is a writer, graduate student and special education teacher.