“The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being”
Last week, we watched The Agony and the Ecstasy, a 1969 docu-drama about Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. Although Hollywood took some liberties in its portrayal of the Church, it did an excellent job portraying the inner strife and inspiration at work in Michelangelo during the years he spent working on the ceiling.
This became the backdrop for our own art activity, which followed a few days later: clay creations. Now, although I play the piano and like to write, I have little other artistic talent, at least as far as the fine arts go. I successfully passed my first grade drawing class with a picture of a house accompanied by stick figures. That was the end of my formal art education, with the exception of art history, which doesn’t help very much when it comes to projects. However, there is skill in the family; I have a feeling that the baby will surpass me pretty quickly, and take after his father, who is quite gifted in the visual arts.
Nevertheless, I love do-it-yourself art projects, and am glad that talent is not a prerequisite for enjoyment. So, when ideas come to me, I like to try them out. A few months ago, it was foam figures for our son’s windows. Then, a few days ago, it was the clay. While Michelangelo, and many other artists combine genius, talent, mastery of lines and curves, and the finest blending of colors for their masterpieces, my recipe is creativity, having fun, and loving my family through what I make. Once in a while, things turn out nicely, in my opinion, though a bit rustic or even childish.
At other times, though, I start out with a brilliant idea that turns into a mess or gets stuck halfway through, when my ability to give form to the image in my mind runs out. In these cases, I happily pass along my little mess to my husband, who salvages it and completes the design.
As I watched my husband’s hand transform my little messes, I thought about how lucky we are to call God “Father.” He leaves us free to be creative in our own lives, to follow our desires and make things happen; he likes seeing us use the talents and capacities he has given us. But when we make a mess of things or get stuck halfway through, we can always pass our life projects to the Great Designer, who can save them, bless them, and turn them into something truly beautiful.
After all, what is man other than God’s own clay creation, given the inestimable gift of life and freedom? His artistic talent reaches beyond the appearances, to fashion in each of us unique and beautiful feelings and thoughts, personality and the ability to act; his love reaches beyond that of a creator admiring his creations, to that of a father, giving life to his children. How blessed we are to be not only creatures, but also beloved children of God, and to participate a little in the gift of creation through the things we make and design and, for some of us, through the gift of our own children as well.
“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet.”
And just a few more pictures to enjoy…