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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.



Each one is unique.

Why have I never noticed this before? As I linger toward the end of my second recent visit to the National Gallery, a bit over-saturated with all the incredible images, my attention wanders to the frames around the art.

It’s like a veil has been removed from my eyes. I take in the first carved border, then scan the room. Then, with an explorer’s zeal, I slide in and out of galleries eagerly photographing samples of the many varied patterns. It crosses my mind how odd I must look, focusing on just edges and corners of masterpieces. But I don’t care. This is fascinating.

I begin to wonder about the process of matching frames to paintings. Some are a perfect combination – for example, this royal elegance for the famous rendering of Napoleon (hand forever inserted in vest).

This portrait of an intimidating pope, thought to be by Velasquez, seems framed by a protective hedge of brambles. Let those who approach beware!

I was relieved to see the Dutch Masters outlined in simple, dark wood, as befits their pared-down portraits.

But then, there were the odd choices. St. Francis, who rejected his family’s wealth and ease, seems somewhat forlorn and trapped by his ornate frame. Release me, I beseech thee! (Though, presumably, spoken in Latin.)

All of these, though, were thoughtfully assigned to images by someone. And their role, as frames, is to set the art apart, to augment it, draw attention to it.

The spiritual implications are clear to me. And quite powerful. We are to be frames around the person and the work of Christ. It’s our job to draw attention to him.

Colossians 1:15 tells us “ The Son is the image of the invisible God.” And just as a frame exists for the purpose of displaying art, our lives are to display this living portrait of the immaterial God. As we do so, we can bring our uniqueness into play.

Each of us has, carved into us, gifts and experiences, temperaments and distinctives which can draw attention to some aspect of the Savior. Some of us are more flourishy. Others are bolder and more direct. Imagine how a simple portrait of Jesus might be emphasized by different frames

Yes, the painting is the point. But the frame matters. What you bring to the task of presenting Christ to the world influences how others see him.

But a good frame never eclipses the painting. I love this border, with its strong curves and outlines. I’m more taken with it than with the portrait, however, which seems rather static in comparison.

And this small section of a hand-stitched frame is a work of art in itself. Anything held inside this tableau is going to pale in comparison.

I’ve got to watch this in myself. It’s easy to draw attention to one’s own talents or good deeds or cleverness and rob people of the true beauty that will feed their souls. I want whatever mark I make during this brief sojourn on earth to be a way to bring people face to face with Jesus.

I am musing on one remaining question, though. Which one of these frames am I?

Lord, you have made us your image-bearers. Help each of us to uniquely frame you in a way that honors you and presents you powerfully to the world around us.

Reader: Now you’ll have to start looking at frames in museums! You’re welcome! Let me know if you have a personal favorite.

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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.

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