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devo: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

21 Oct

Luke 15:11-32

There are so many great stories in the Text and we have been fortunate that many artists over the course of history have attempted to capture these special moments. We’ve been given The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, Miracle of Bread and Fish by Giovanni Lanfranco and many others. The words used to tell these stories in the Text are powerful but add to that a visual of someone’s interpretation and it can add to our ability to get involved on a personal level. Sculptor Gregg Wyatt once said, “Art is not simply a pretty picture or something to glance at as you go by, but to be meditated upon. It is like a library of great truth.”

On of my favorite stories is that of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15 and we have been blessed with Rembrandt’s interpretation of the climax of the story in his painting entitled The Return of the Prodigal Son.  Perhaps it’s a very familiar story for you but over the next few moments try to approach the story from a fresh place, as if you’re unfamiliar with the story.

Take a few moments to slowly read through the story. When you’re done take the same amount of time to look at the painting as you review the story in your mind leading up to the son’s return.

Now, continue to look at the painting while contemplating on these statements and questions:

– What grabs your attention? Where are your eyes automatically drawn?

– Henry Nouwen says this “is a story of returning…My life drifts away from God. I have to return.  My heart moves away from my first love. I have to return. My mind wanders to strange images. I have to return. Returning is a lifelong struggle” (Nouwen 72). What part of you needs to return to your Heavenly Father? Life? Heart? Mind?

– The father asked nothing of the son before embracing him in his arms. Do you feel God is requiring something from you before you can return?

– We often relate to the son but now turn your eyes to the father. Who do you unconditionally welcome into your presence? Who do you place conditions on?

– Ultimately as followers of Jesus we are called to become more and more like our heavenly Father. This story paints the Father as one with no alarm for himself.  Do we give to others expecting nothing to be returned? Does our love for those we come in contact with come with no conditions?

Nouwen, Henri. The Road To Daybreak. Doubleday Publishing.  New York, NY.  1990.

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3 Comments

Posted by on October 21, 2010 in Devotional, Reflection

 

3 responses to “devo: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

  1. John

    October 22, 2010 at 11:20 am

    What grabs your attention? Where are your eyes automatically drawn?

    My eyes are drawn to where the fathers arms are comforting the son. It just reminds me of the unconditional love our Father has for us. He could just stand there but it shows He is responding to His sons return

    What part of you needs to return to your Heavenly Father? Life? Heart? Mind?

    I feel like God is working in me to have a fully surrendered heart to Him. To have me stop looking to other relationships for the comfort I need and stay focused on Him. Then ironically I think the other relationships will be just as I desire when they stop becoming the focus and God becomes the all consuming focus.

    Do you feel God is requiring something from you before you can return?

    I dont know if there is a requirement but I feel compeled to surrender. To lay down my hurts and hang ups and stop picking them back up. I realize when I pick them up God cant work in them, yet I do the things I dont want to do.

    Who do you unconditionally welcome into your presence? Who do you place conditions on?

    Its funny because these tend to be the same people. My family. I intend on always loving them unconditionally and then in the course of it I catch myself in a storm or when im not secure, trying to put conditions on them. Its crazy and a work God is doing in me. A painful one Im ready to get through.

    Do we give to others expecting nothing to be returned? Does our love for those we come in contact with come with no conditions?

    I try my best with my wife yet I want something in return most of the time, yet I can give to strangers with out any expectations. Its hard to give to the ones we care about and not want a response. Its allowed me to see and feel a little how God must feel when we dont respond to His unconditional love for us.

     
    • chrismeek32

      October 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

      I think you have touched on something. For some reason our family, those that we love the most, get hurt the most in our struggle to be all that God desires us to be. To be the father in the prodigal son isn’t easy but that’s what we are called to be to our friends and our family. My the Lord continue to guide us and teach us.

       
  2. Mat

    October 27, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Great probing thoughts, Chris!
    This is a powerful picture. We have this picture framed and mounted in both our local church as well as my home. Nouwen’s book on this parable and painting is definitely worth the read. He takes us through the concept that there are definitely times in our lives in which we are like the son, the Father, and the brother. What really struck me while reading this book several months back was the concept that we are all called to be like the father and that only by being like the father can we come closer to experiencing love as we should be loved. This thought nearly jumped off the page and hit me. It is through our unconditional love that we recognize our own sinfulness and through practicing that love, that we can allow God to love us that fully.
    Another interesting read focusing on this parable is Tim Keller’s book entitled Prodigal God. In it, Keller spends significant time talking about God’s reckless pursuit of us. And in God’s reckless pursuit of us, God becomes prodigal, not in a negative sense, but in the aspect of lavishing love upon us.

     

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