By Melissa McLaughlin
My husband, Tom McLaughlin, is an artist. And oh, how I love his creations!
From pen and ink sketches, to oil and acrylic paints on canvas, to clay vases, to stylized calligraphy – it is all a wonder to me!
One year for Christmas, my husband gave me an empty canvas as a gift. Part of the gift was that he promised to paint whatever I wanted. I asked him create something using wildflowers we noticed on a recent family vacation to Maine. The wild beach rose from a family of wild roses called “Rosa rugosa”, grew wild and free along the roadsides and beaches of Maine and seemed to epitomize the joy of our memories there. He included these beauties and added other elements to compose such heart and soul in paint. Five wild roses represented our family, with a small bloom underneath symbolizing future life in our family. Behind he incorporated a harvest background to reflect our family as part of the harvest for God’s Kingdom. The skies and scenery were fluid, breathing with movement and life.
When my husband’s grandmother passed away, he painted a sunflower with its head bowing low, surrendering its life, while vibrant zinnias bloomed underneath embodying the family carrying on as her legacy.
He created a snow scene for one daughter, a sunrise for the other daughter and painted a portrait of my son doing homework at the kitchen table many years ago. Each gift of art, a gift of himself, uniquely designed for each child. For our anniversary one year, he blessed me with the gift of a calligraphy scripture, one of my favorites. The list literally goes on and on and on.
Recently, he made a little figurine in a folk style known as “Clay People”. Tom formed a clay man with his steady hands and artist’s eye. The clay man was a house painter, wielding an appearance of robust work, with his round belly and rugged hands. This little fellow caught my eye and my affection. Though simple in many respects, certainly he was not simple to create. To take a blob of clay and shape it into something that even partially represents a concept is a feat in itself. But then to have that inanimate object possess a charm and character all its own is magical to me.
Despite the numerous examples of my husband’s creativity and artwork that I may attempt to describe, depict or display, even if I gathered thousands, these items could never portray all of who he is. They don’t capture Tom’s spontaneous jokes, the strength of his arms as he threw our children into the air when they were little, the sparkle in his eye when he finds tiny plastic collectibles, the fervor of his faith when he worships the Lord, his depth of understanding about the Bible, his humility to confess his weaknesses, his passion for his favorite sports teams, his look of total concentration when playing guitar, his insatiable curiosity when we go for a walk, his interest in history and archaeology, his ability to grow a breathtaking garden, his fierce devotion to his wife, to his family and to Christ. No amount of artistic artifacts could ever adequately exemplify the actual complexity and full extent of countless facets comprising the artist who creates the artwork.
Is there a number that quantifies or a phrase that fully expresses all that a person is? No. Never. There are not enough numbers, not enough words. There is simply no way to illustrate or explain the full essence of a person.
In the same way, when I consider the scale of all creation, I see that we are only scratching the surface, touching the hem of God’s magnificent garment. As the oceans crash on the shore with immeasurable weight, as the mountains tower in the distance with majestic glory, as the ladybug flits past with a unique pattern of spots on her wings, as the stripes of symmetry glisten on my cat’s gray fur, as the trees reach high with leafy green pattern and strength, I see a Creator who can be grasped in only the slightest degree through His creation. The power, weight, magnitude, complexity, pattern, interdependence, diversity, form and beauty speak of One who is much, much greater than all this.
When I was younger, I was often confused by the Bible verses that instructed a fear of the Lord. I couldn’t understand why I should fear the One who loved me so much He died for me.
Proverbs 9:10 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
As I have grown older, I have come to understand that I am not my own. I was made by a Creator who is so much bigger, grander and more wonderful than I can observe or imagine, for this entire creation could never express all of who He is. This Creator should rightfully be feared by one who is but a mere flash in the creation itself.
The famous scientist, mathematician, theologian and author, Sir Isaac Newton has been credited with this famous quote, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.”
I invite you to pause and consider just your thumb! The skin that covers it perfectly. Each person’s thumbprint is completely unique! The joints allow the bones to bend and grip. The nail, one of our first and most used tools. The veins, the muscles, the tendons. The molecules making up various body fluids and systems all working together with such intricacy and complexity to allow my thumb to type these very words.
But that’s not all! Consider this, the universe itself!
Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Think of the sun, moon and stars shining through the skies millions of miles away, yet lighting up our lives with incredible alignment and order. Think of the planets, each one, including earth, hangs in the heavens by nothing but the hand of God, through His powerful Word and the forces He set in place.
Gratefully, I have grown to understand that a recognition of God’s greatness and my corresponding smallness gives me greater awe, wonder, reverence and joy in my worship of Him. Therefore, a fear of the LORD is a rational response to an incredibly powerful Creator. Remarkably, at the same time, this deep understanding is also for my own blessing as one of His creatures, that I may take in and be thrilled by His Sovereign Power.
Romans 1:18-20 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Imagine for a moment…what must God look like?
The One who formed the mountains.
The One who set the planets into motion.
The One who poured the waters into the rushing rivers.
The One who designed for new life to spring forth from the tiny seed.
The One who lit the sun, moon and stars with their fierce heavenly light.
The One who painted the hues on the feathers of the bird and gave it a morning song.
The One who formed my frame, breathed the breath of life into me and set my heart beating.
How could we ever imagine the vastness, power, weight, magnitude and might of such a One? In much the same way that my husband’s artistic creations cannot provide a complete picture of him, so God’s creation provides only a passing glance at His expansive fullness and glorious majesty. For all that we can see and more than we can imagine is only a glimpse of His greatness.
As part of my daily devotional time and private worship, I find it powerful to pause, pray and visualize God’s greatness as described here in Psalm 93:
The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
you are from all eternity.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord,
the floods have lifted up their voice;
the floods lift up their roaring.
Mightier than the thunders of many waters,
mightier than the waves of the sea,
the Lord on high is mighty!
Your decrees are very trustworthy;
holiness adorns your house,
O Lord, forevermore.
We are simply the dust of the earth and to dust we will return. A worthless lump of clay in the Potter’s hands. And yet, He set His affections upon us. He gave us His mind, His Word, His laws of righteousness so that we, finite lumps of clay that we are, could know the ways of the Infinite and Holy One. Then He sent His own Son, Jesus, to fulfill those laws of righteousness because we could not. Trading His greatness for our weakness so that we could share in His great Kingdom family. From clay to heaven.
This is your God.
May you pause long enough to be utterly amazed and totally blown away by who God is. May your mind, heart and prayers be turned to the One who made all things today.
I leave you with this quote by author, speaker, teacher and apologist, Ravi Zacharias.
“An immeasurable God paid an immeasurable price to spend immeasurable time with us.”
*Artwork by Tom McLaughlin
If you love God and you love art, you will also love the Eclectic Contrarian’s post entitled “Art”. He offers deep thought about both!