Should you walk through a museum with a guide or go discover things on your own? Now, if you’re talking about a museum of science set up with interactive displays largely targeting children, that’s one thing. But if you’re going through an art museum, say the Salvador Dali museum in St Petersburg, that’s something else.
That dilemma came the other day as I played guide for Janice at the Vatican Museum. I have had the privilege of taking a couple of groups to Italy (as part of a larger tour of retracing the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys), and in those settings I have taken a back seat and just let the local guide take us through the museum even though you sometimes feel like a lemming, following the trinket held up on a stick by the guide to keep the little flock of tourists together. But there are things that you just don’t notice unless someone points them out. And on that score a guided tour is better.
Before I go on, let me plug the solo thing. With Janice I got to see a lot more of the museum than I had seen with the rushed guides. We saw, and this is very important, all the past “pope mobiles.” Starting with the personal compartment that got carried on the shoulders of four people, to the carriages pulled by six horses, to the cars and SUV’s with hundreds of horse-power, the museum assembled them all for the public to see. How could these guides have skipped THIS part of the museum!?!
Anyway. In the Tapestry Gallery, huge tapestries hang one after another, down both sides of a majestically long room. These tapestries are two stories high, and are remarkable in their detail. The great artist Raphael sketched the cartoons for these things, and then a tapestry maker (or a hundred) worked diligently on turning them into rugs (that term sounds so pedestrian – these works of art shouldn’t be called rugs).
Two of them, both with Jesus in them, are truly remarkable. One features Jesus walking out of the tomb. Most people, and I watched them, just glance at it and move on. Some actually took pictures of it – it’s rather large even by the gallery’s standards. But nobody, in the time that I watched, looked into Jesus’ eyes as they walked by. You need to do that, because it doesn’t matter where you stand in relation to the tapestry, Jesus is always looking at you. If it wasn’t a smiling Jesus, it might be scary. But in this context, that Jesus is looking at you regardless of where you are just seems cool. Real cool. So cool that I had Janice experience it. She couldn’t believe it. I loved it so much that I just went looking for other people to tell them about it. Seriously, I stopped, looked for someone with an approachable smile, and talked to them. The people that I talked to walked back to the beginning of the tapestry, fixed their eyes on Jesus (you can imagine where I’m going with this), and then just shook their heads in amazement. And thanked me. One lady stood around and became an evangelist after Janice and I left.
I firmly believe that blessings are found when you look for them. Experiencing God happens when we seek Him. You certainly aren’t going to notice that Jesus has His eyes trained on you if you are looking down, if you are looking elsewhere, if you are not paying attention. And yes, having someone serve as a guide occasionally is truly helpful.
One of my favorite songs is: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.” “Look full in His wonderful face” it goes on to say. “And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace” wrote Helen Lemmel so many years ago. What the tapestry at the Vatican reminded me of is that if I look for Him, as the song suggests, I will find that He is already looking at me. And always has been. His grace is such that it follows us not just through the incredibly ornate hallways of the Vatican, but in everyday life, in Boca, wherever. But just like thousands of people walk by the tapestry and don’t appreciate it, so there are tens of thousands in Boca who are walking through life not knowing that a loving God is just waiting for them to look up. Who will tell them?
Blessed to be back in Boca,
How then can they call on the One in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Hebrews 10:14,15