Last week I was overwhelmed – again. It was déjà vu from two years ago. All those hallways and galleries and glass cases and tiny spotlights. It doesn’t take long for me to get lost in the varied and sometimes loose interpretations of art at The Art Institute of Chicago.
But this time, while indulging in Monet’s impressionist beauty and marveling at intricate hand-sewn tapestries and pausing over Picasso’s intriguing depictions, my thoughts floated to another piece of art. A picture – and it’s my favorite.
It’s an unfinished piece. Even so, it’s wonderful in its present state. The artist continues to work on it – daily refining, enhancing, reducing and adding. It’s a complicated work that I ponder and probe closely. In the details I perceive bits of anger and pain. Joy alongside sorrow. I discover sections that exude bright laughter and coy smiles. Happiness. Gentleness. Attentiveness. Kindness. Love.
Two figures are central to the piece. The artist has captured them speaking. Their mouths are nondescriptly shaped, so I’m free to envision a confounded effusion of words – some shouted, some whispered, some savored, and some unsaid. Their intricate faces, focused upon each other, are both quizzical and knowing.
Layered deep into the picture is a warm acceptance that blankets cool, undulating anxieties. Shadowy tones of doubt and fear are present, but carefully bound to the perimeter. Wonder and celebration effervesce from the picture, seeking to capture and enthrall each observer.
Stepping back for a broad view brings forth soft, strong, tender, and compassionate characteristics. Taken as one, this picture is simultaneously fully feminine and wholly masculine. Each part necessary, yet independently special. It’s a mysterious collective. A deeply personal picture that’s common in its representation, but unique in its presentation.
This extraordinary piece was in The Art Institute of Chicago last week – for about two hours. Then it walked out the door, down stone steps, passed between the majestic and beautifully oxidized pair of bronze lions and onto a sidewalk along Michigan Avenue. That piece – a masterfully crafted picture – is my marriage.
More than twenty years in its progression, God continues to paint my marriage with vibrant colors of grace, mercy, patience, and love. Despite moments of resistance, He gently knits together the souls of my wife and me. Closer. Tighter. Singular. Intimate. We are bound with cosmic sacredness.
God’s sings with pleasure over our bittersweet union. And in the safety of His purposed design we cling to our covenant. We fight for it. We trust it. We rest unified, gladly reflecting back to the Artist the beauty of our oneness.
The gift of marriage is a spectacular display of creative love. A man. A woman. Fit together with God-given complementarity. A blessed picture of the redemptive, life-giving relationship of God and His children.
Me and my wife. Together.
That’s my favorite picture.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24, ESV)