Past the Portrait | Whose Opinion Are You Captured By

Like an intellectual tourist drinking in the delights of an original Van Gogh at the New York Met, I stood transfixed in front of the painting. There were other sights to see, other views to admire and yet I remained unmoved from my spot. Hour past hour, day past day until months became years, I looked only at that one portrait, that one portrait of my own face. The museum hall was full to bursting of other renderings of my physique at different times from different perspectives, but I didn’t care about a single one of those. This particular artist had my heart. So this particular portrait was the only one that mattered.

It wasn’t very good. It was ugly. I was ugly. 

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Many other painters painted me different ways. Every other portrait was better. Some of them were even beautiful. But none of those mattered. I wasn’t looking at any of them and had no intentions of doing so. That particular artist had my heart so he had the right to paint me however he wanted and however he wanted was right. It had to be. So I didn’t move. I couldn’t. I knew that if I tried hard enough, waited long enough or simply changed enough about myself that the artist would change his mind and the portrait along with it. He never did. So I never moved. Until I saw her.

I was holding a glass door open for my sister and the two-year-old little girl I devote my waking hours to when I caught a glimpse of this woman. She was smiling with so much sunlight that it literally took my breath away. When I looked again to discover who this ravishing beauty was I realized…It was me.

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It wasn’t possible. The woman I saw reflected in the glass could not possibly be the same woman I find hanging in that gallery. Yet, the truth was the truth. Smiling at those I loved most in the world that day, I discovered how I look, when they’re looking at me. 

There is a myriad of reasons the portrait you’re staring at doesn’t appeal to you. Maybe the artist draws beauty with broad brush strokes but your eyes have trained themselves to see only flaws. Maybe you’ve handed creative power to the wrong artist. Maybe you’ve given too much license to a painter not skilled, or not loving, or simply not worthy. So as you wake up each morning feeling like you’re on display in some museum, wandering down gallery hallways bedecked with this or that perception of who you are or what you should be, allow me to remind you:

There is only one painter worthy of your focus and you might think twice before you judge His work because He is making it perfect, and He is not finished.

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“You are always in God’s sight comely, always in God’s sight lovely, always in God’s sight as though you were perfect. For ye are complete in Christ Jesus, and perfect in Christ Jesus. Always do you stand completely washed and fully clothed in Christ.” Charles Spurgeon

This piece isn’t about boosting your self-image or focusing only on the people whose view of you is flattering – this is about the need to look past the portrait to the Painter. It’s about Who you hand your heart to. He has the right to paint you any way that He wants. And the way that He wants, is right. It isn’t about how you see yourself, it’s about Who He is and how He sees you.

You know how you look when He’s looking at you? Perfect.

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