Picture perfect

Picture perfect

I am an imprecise image maker.

For the last few days, I’ve been musing on how well my art communicates who I am.  I think all artists, on some level, want their work to encapsulate something of the way they see the world.  What is created should embody fundamental aspects of the one who brings it into being.

But it’s not just artists who look to do this.  Maybe you’re expressing who you are through your job, your hobby, your kids, or even how you decorate your house.

The problem is that humans are too complex to capture in a created work.  Even Rembrandt, who spent a lifetime painting self-portraits, only revealed what he was aware of that day.  Bravado or surprise or world-weariness were just what bubbled up to the surface of his intentions.  These paintings (we suppose) captured his features well.  But did they reveal the real Rembrandt?

Was he even self-aware enough to speak the truth about himself?  Are any of us?

Which brings me to Jesus.  Over the coming months, I want to meditate on Jesus through passages that express his greatness.  Today, I’m looking at the first part of Colossians 1:15.

The Son is the image of the invisible God

Such a simple statement.  Such a mind-boggling truth.

Let me say, up front, that I’m not a theologian.  My goal is to let a truth like this fuel the way I see the world around me.  So, expect some simple, but hopefully useful, observations.

Two jump out right away.  First, God is invisible.  I’m not sure I ever grappled with that before.  We cannot see him.  I have to adjust my mental image of a burning sun in the vague shape of a human to realize that all that glory streaming from him is simply a visual by-product of who he is.  It isn’t him.  God is invisible.

Second, Jesus is the only visible and complete expression of who God is.  This means that anytime in Scripture tells us of someone encountering or seeing God, they must be seeing Jesus.  Did Jacob with Jesus?  Did Isaiah and Daniel see him on the throne? Did Jesus pass by Moses in the rock?  It seems that’s what Paul is implying.

Hebrews 1:3 says that Jesus is “the exact imprint of (God’s) nature.”  Unlike our human expressions, there is no dilution of the complexity of the Father in his embodiment in the Son.  (Of course, Jesus was not “made,” but a part of the eternal Trinity.)  Every bit of God’s surpassing greatness is conveyed through Jesus.

As I look at my art, I am ready for it to be more.  As a career illustrator, I’ve perfected the “art” of embodying other people’s ideas.  It’s time for me to expand the creative work that flows out of who I am.

And whose I am.

Because, as I am “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29), my imperfect work can be a frame to display Jesus, the perfect picture of God.

Jesus, you tell us that when we see you, we have seen the Father.  Help us to behold you so that our lives and our work might also, in some small way, be expressions of you.

Reader:  What do you create that is the best expression of who you are?  Tell me about it.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.