Sunflowers and other signs from God.
Signs from God
The month of August was filled with sunflowers for me. I saw an overwhelming amount of high school senior photos in a sunflower field. Then I did a memorial service for someone whose favorite flower was sunflowers. I went to a volunteer appreciation lunch were the sunflowers pictured were the centerpiece. But the most impactful memory from this month was going to the Van Gogh Immersive Experience in Atlanta.
I thought I knew a decent amount about Van Gogh before going but discovered a few different things while I was there.
- Van Gogh only sold one painting. He used some of his art as payment for bills. But he only sold one. He was unknown and uncelebrated during his lifetime. Yet in 1990, his Portrait du Docteur Gachet sold for $82,500,00.
- Van Gogh was probably color blind. He is known for his paintings of sunflowers and his use of color. This particular yellow was unique to him. When scientists have analyzed his paintings, they can show that his use of color and contrast have similarities with people who are color blind.
- Van Gogh was a genius. Mad at times. But genius. After you do the learning bits of the experience, you go into a big room to sit. Listen to music. And follow Van Gogh’s life through a series of immersive projections and quotes from Van Gogh. One of my favorites is, “It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”
I sat in the big room and came close to weeping. I realized that my soul had seen so much ugliness lately that when I was immersed in beauty I was also overwhelmed by love. I felt like I was sitting in Van Gogh’s mind. I saw the beauty of Creation both within Van Gogh and in his work. I understood that even though Van Gogh was a very troubled soul, he was also loved beyond measure and redeemed by God. I can’t find the right words to tell you how I knew that, but I knew it. I felt it in my soul.
These reflections on the experience brought me closer to God. Since my time in the Immersive Experience, I’ve been able to put some thought into what it means for me.
- Work isn’t successful because of an outcome. Work is successful if it glorifies God. Van Gogh’s work reflected the glory of creation. It showed the beauty of night. The brilliance of sunflowers. The complexity of humanity. When our work glorifies God, then we can proclaim that it is good. Not because it is popular but because it reflects God. For an Enneagram 3, this was eye opening.
- God uses our weaknesses. We see this over and over again in Biblical stories. Moses stuttered. David was small, immature, and powerless. Paul persecuted Christians. Van Gogh was color blind. God used their weaknesses and He can use mine too. If we weren’t broken, we wouldn’t need a savior.
- We are living in the mind of Christ. As I sat in the Immersive Experience and realized that I was sitting in Van Gogh’s mind, I kept wondering how to replicate that so that people could sit inside of Jesus’ mind. I wanted people to experience this beauty directly from the Divine. As I looked around the room and thought of our world, I realized that even with all of its flaws and ugliness, the world is Jesus’ mind. He was present at creation and spoke the world into being. We are God’s creation and humanity is His masterpiece. Yes we are still broken and troubled, but God uses our brokenness to show us how much he loves us. The experience of that love is all around us. We only need to look for it.
The beauty of sunflowers isn’t just their color; it is also their behavior. They always turn towards the light. The light that allows us to see their beauty and the beauty in the rest of the world.
Perhaps God has been telling me to look around more. Perhaps God is telling me to turn towards the light. Perhaps God is reminding me that there are signs of beauty all around us. Perhaps God is telling me He loves me. Perhaps it is all of the above.
We often ask God for signs. But do we really look for them? Perhaps the signs are right in front of you and all you need to do is see them illuminated.
Until Everyone Hears,
10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.
1 Thess 5:5
For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.
This is excellent in its visceral connection. I do have to share a slight bit of humor. I remarked to my pastor once how so many times my prayer and meditation content, scripture study and homilies merged… thinking this was an insight meant for my unique and personal growth. He responded, “Nah, it’s probably just all coming from the same Common Lectionary!” Since I loved him dearly I found it a quite humbling experience.
Ha ha! My seminary professor used to say, “The Holy Spirit always appreciates good planning!”