One day, while zooming down the stairs of The National Gallery in London to see a collection of Gaugin paintings on loan, I was stopped in my tracks by a famous painting. I had never cared to see this painting because I had seen prints of it in art books and on dorm room walls; and, frankly, I wasn’t impressed. But, here, in it’s original splendor, on the landing of a stairway, I was transfixed.
The painting was Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. I could not believe how beautiful it was, how vibrant the colors were, the background looked like real gold, and the flowers almost seemed to dance on the canvas. I could feel the warmth from the colors in this painting. I was humbled and captivated by this painting. The description informed me that Van Gogh intended this painting for his guest bedroom where Gaugin stayed for some time.
I later recounted this encounter as a secular-religious experience until a friend informed me there is no such thing as a secular-religious experience. She made the point that I had encountered the divine in the mundane. I have another friend who told me nothing is mundane, everything belongs to God. Just like God to be everywhere and reveal himself to us in countless unique ways.
Has this ever happened to you? Think for a minute, have you ever encountered God in the mundane? Do you have a story you tell over and over because it was such an unusual occurrence? Jot down any thoughts that come without judging them, like a brain storm session.
When my friend told me I had encountered the divine in the mundane, I was sad that I didn’t know it at the time. I was concerned that maybe I had missed a golden opportunity. Fortunately, God is not limited by time and space; so, I prayed and asked God, “Why did that painting strike me? What would you like to reveal to me through that painting?”
It came to me that when we encounter God, we know it on some level whether we have words for it or not. And, God is more vivid and captivating than any cheap image the media might try to give us of him. In life, don’t settle for the cheap imitations of God the world will offer, such as an old guy in a robe smiting people. There is a world of difference to be found in the real thing. Finally, God is warmth and light and something tells me he has the most inviting guest bedrooms ever.
Try this mental exercise I created:
Sherry Barrett is an active artist who takes inspiration from great works of literature, historical figures, and wise people.