I love art museums.
I love the ornate gold frames, the giant white walls, the sculptures from different eras, and the masterpieces from bygone years. I love the winding hallways, the gorgeous natural light, the echoing of footsteps on marble floors, and the hours it takes to take it all in.
I love people watching at art museums, too.
I love noticing the couples holding hands as they wander, the school children running through doorways evading their chaperones, the old woman asking the attendant questions, and the stranger sketching on a nearby bench.
But what I love most is the awe and wonder of art museums.
I love the gathering of strangers to marvel at the creation of someone else. I love the general hush of the room (save those two students laughing as they breeze by) and the way you can get lost from exhibit to exhibit.
And when I find myself at art museums, my favorite thing is to stand close.
If I wait long enough, I can usually stand close enough to a piece of art to where nothing else is in sight. The frame takes up my full vision, the colors wash over me, and everything else disappears. I usually have my headphones on, some instrumental piece playing over the buzz of the room, and these two things combined (the music and the nearness of the masterpiece) wash everything else away.
Van Goh makes me teary.
Pollock makes me dizzy.
And Monet reminds me of Jesus.
One of the moments I have felt Jesus most near in my life was in an art museum, standing practically nose-to-canvas with Claude Monet’s water lilies. With only the swirling colors in view, I felt as though He was the one pushing pause on everything else, quieting the whirling of my mind and my to-do list to say, “Be still.”
Being still is not something I am naturally good at, so I knew it had to be Him.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
He, too, invites us to stand close.
If I look out at the world in front of me it is easy to see the hub-bub of an art museum. The people hurrying about, neighbors at work or near my home, friends to keep up with and family to love well, the cashier at the grocery store. To get caught in the whirlwind of volunteer opportunities, demands at school, standards the media says to live up to, heartbreaking stories on the news. I often can let the noise inside my head and the habits of my life drown out His still small voice, replacing it with self-critique, numbing tendencies, and striving to be all things for every one.
Still, He invites us to stand close. In fact, James 4:8 reminds us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
In the days of this pandemic, I miss art museums.
I miss traveling, experiencing other cultures, and wandering through centuries of creation among strangers. The world has changed, and the noise can feel overwhelmingly loud or eerily quiet.
But in the days of this pandemic, we don’t have to miss God’s nearness.
“God, your wrap-around presence is my protection and my defence.
You bring victory to all who reach out for you.”
Psalm 7:10, The Passion Translation
In the days of this pandemic, perhaps this is the moment to stand even closer, to bring Him and His word so closely in view that the rest of it fades away.
Perhaps this is the moment and the nearness He has been inviting us into all along. Will you join me? Will you stand close to Him as He stands close to you?
“I am standing in absolute stillness, silent before the One I love,
waiting as long as it takes for Him to rescue me.
Only God is my Savior, and He will not fail me.
For He alone is my safe place.
His wrap-around presence always protects me
as my Champion Defender.
There’s no risk of failure with God!
So why would I let worry paralyse me
even when troubles multiply around me?
God’s glory is all around me!
His wrap-around presence is all I need,
for the Lord is my Savior, my hero, and my life-giving-strength.
Join me, everyone! Trust only in God every moment!
Tell Him all your troubles and pour out your heart-longings to Him.
Believe me when I tell you - He will help you!”
Psalm 62: 5-8, The Passion Translation