A few days ago I promised a group of friends that I would find two consecutive hours of quiet somewhere in my week. I knew it needed to be done, but there was a lot of stress in that promise. Too many things to do, too many deadlines to meet, too much on my mind to settle.
I tried to take a quiet moment, but every time I was interrupted with pressing plans, pressing problems, pressing thoughts. I tried to settle down on a recent cross-country plane trip, but was met with homework, bookwork, an episode of Secret Millionaire and chatty neighbors.
I had nearly given up and had lost hope that I would be able to find the time to fulfill my promise of rest to rejuvenate my soul.
Then, I walked in to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Wednesday nights the museum opens up for a “Pay-What-You-Will” night of cash-bars and long corridors of history and beauty. I found myself wandering alone through the European historical hallways from 1300 to 1600. To the South, Renoir, Degas, Monet and Manet. To the North, recreations of the stone churches, the fountains and stain glass of historic gothic architecture.
I walked slowly. Taking in the height and craftsmanship of history. I gazed into the portraits of the Madonna and Christ-child. I sat at the foot of a life-sized crucifixion. And I let the depth of the depictions hit the center of my soul. Here I found the reconnection with what I have been seeking – the story of God on Earth, made flesh.
The absolute beauty of the paintings and structures was reviving to my soul and nearly overwhelming. I was awoken in the brush-strokes of long dead artists and pressed inward as I quietly soaked in the creative talents of stoneworkers, gold inlayers, and silver linings.
In one wing of the museum you can sit around a reconstructed fountain from 19th century France. Water gushing over the sides, columns surrounding the courtyard, not too far a jump in the imagination to being there and walking the cobblestone since moved across the ocean. I found rest there. I found moments of quiet there. I found rejuvenation there. I told my team if they couldn’t find me at any point over the next few days, to start the search there.
I am amazed at the power of art and beauty to connect a person to bigger ideas and the massive story of humanity across borders, time, eras and cultures. I am thankful that my soul can be awakened in the oil and pigment of the fine artists.
[Our responses and reactions to the things that happen around us reveal the depth of our character and nature. They are opportunities, also, to show the character and love of God. This Lenten Season I am practicing awareness by looking for deep truth in everyday things. Check out other posts under Lent.]