For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV
This past week my wife and I visited the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. It is a museum that hosts among other things exhibitions of contemporary art. One of the exhibits was a work of art by Robert Gober created in the late 1980s entitled “Untitled Door And Door Frame” and the elements used were “wood, enamel paint.” This particular “work” consisted of two major elements. First there was a wood framed doorway, the only entrance into a white ten by twelve windowless, featureless room. The door frame was painted with a healthy coat of creamy beige enamel. Inside the room leaning against the opposite wall farthest from the doorway was the second element of the “work” – an old six-panel interior door without a door knob or latch which was also painted a creamy beige.
Like so much of modern art, it takes a right-brained creative to fully appreciate the categorization of certain things as “art.” And this display by Gober, constructed and arranged using such common objects was no exception. Typically when most people think of art they imagine works like the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci or The Pieta by Michelangelo.
To a left-brained home fixit guy like myself, Untitled Door And Door Frame looked more like an unfinished project and anything but a work of art. In my linear, structured way of thinking the paint was dry so why not get the necessary hardware, grab the door and install the hinges and latch set, measure the doorframe to match, install its hinges and mount the door?
Perhaps that is some of the emotional response Gober was looking for when he came up with his idea. I know that good art is meant to be evocative but typically we associate the response of its beholder be one of aesthetic enjoyment rather than frenetic deployment.
It raises a very important question “When is art, art?” Is it determined by the creator or by the beholder? By both or by neither? Does the work itself, by virtue of its own qualities define itself as Art? All these are debatable questions that have entertained the minds of philosophers throughout the ages.
The question “When is art, art?” takes on even greater significance when we ask it about ourselves in the context of God being the artist and us being the art. Truth be told, most people have difficulty thinking of themselves as a work of art – a “piece of work” maybe, but not a work of art.
Being all too aware of our own flaws, failings and unfulfilled expectations we are more apt to categorize ourselves with the unhinged door leaning up against the wall by Grober than with a sculpture by Michelangelo. Somehow the unfinished nature of Grober’s work is more descriptive of a life that’s under construction and waiting to find its fit in God’s plan than a finished, white polished, perfectly formed sculpture.
But God’s view of us as a work of art defies our limited worldly perspective. In heavens eyes art is defined solely by the Creator. When God created the heavens and the earth with man, both male and female, as His crowning achievement He “looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31 NLT)
When God declares that His works of art are art, and “very good” at that, then we need to agree with Him. Yes we may feel like an unhinged door, even look like one to a casual observer, but in heavens eyes we are a valuable work of art, “God’s workmanship” or “masterpiece” the Bible tells us.
God looks at us, the way any artist looks at their finished work, with a sense of satisfaction and personal delight. And that is prior to us having ever done anything, been of any benefit to anyone else or proven our worth to God Himself. All the credit for being a masterpiece goes to the creator, not to the work.
While that is hard for us to fully comprehend, there is even more to baffle our understanding. Paul writes that as God’s workmanship we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV) As God’s works of art He has created within us, through the presence of Jesus Christ in our lives, preordained potential to accomplish amazing things. When He looks at us He not only sees what we are now, but what He has created us to become. And to Him, with whom “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” it has already happened and we simply need to live it. (2 Peter 3:8 ESV)
Tomorrow we begin a new year – 2012! Think of all the untapped potential God has preprogrammed into you as His work of art. Take time to imagine all that He has prepared in advance for you to do to bring Him glory in the coming year! That door leaning against the wall in your life is not only going to get hung, but the room it is the entrance to is going to be filled with people you can bless and who will be a blessing to you.
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