By Deacon Derick Cranston
Our lives are a work of art. Our life is formed and sculpted by our joys and sorrows, our heartaches and happiness. It is in this process that we become a work of art.
I imagine, though, that most of us do not feel like a work of art. Our failings and shortcomings are all too present to us. The ugliness of suffering mars our outlook, and we can see our life only through the lens of pain and sorrow. But our Creator sees us in a different light. Our God who loves us sees us through the light of his love. God sees the beauty within us, and the work of art hidden inside that is waiting to be released.
How can we release this work of art inside us? Through suffering. The ugliness of suffering peels away our vanity and pride. Suffering strips away the illusion of self-reliance and reveals our dependence on God. When we let the hand of God guide our actions, the beautiful work of art inside of us begins to take shape. When we realize that God is the artist and we are but his instrument, then the beauty within us starts to emerge. As St. Francis says, “Make me an instrument of your peace…” Just as Beethoven told a friend, “It is God who composes the music. I simply write the notes on paper.”
You are beautiful, whether you realize it or not. You become even more beautiful when you endure suffering and can transform it into an act of love. Christ’s beauty became manifest when he suffered and died upon the cross because of his love for us. Is it any coincidence that the greatest works of art over the last 2,000 years are depictions of Christ suffering on the cross?
During the last several years of his life, the French artist Renoir was virtually crippled by arthritis, but he continued to paint every day no matter how painful it became. It got so bad that his wife had to put the paintbrush between his fingers in order for him to paint. One day a friend was watching him paint, and noticed the look of excruciating pain that crossed his face with every stroke of the brush. His friend asked him, “Why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?” Without hesitating Renoir replied, “Because the pain passes, but the beauty remains forever.”
The beautiful work of art within each of us is eternal. Life can be very painful at times. We can lose our perspective and see only the pain in our life. However the pain will pass, but the beauty…the beauty will last forever.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)