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Michelangelo and Me: Why we didn't want to paint God

This is God...
How would you describe God, in 50 words or less?

How would you draw him? “The Shack” author William P. Young shook us up when he mentally drew God as a large African-American woman.

Michelangelo painted him like this in "The Creation of Adam", one of his six depictions of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1511.

But he almost didn’t.

3 excuses Michelangelo could have used to NOT paint God, or,
3 excuses why I don’t know God better:

(1) I already know God.
Michelangelo: Something was already painted there.
Me: I’m convinced I already know who God is.

Just as a previous fresco of a starry sky had been painted on the Sistine Chapel before Michelangelo was charged to do his painting, we, too, often see a preconceived image of God on our internal canvas.

Maybe it’s a bearded, long-haired flannelgraph God left over from hot summer VBS days. Or lyrics rattling in our heads from 10 a.m. Sunday mornings (“There’s an all-seeing eye watching you”). Or the voice of Jim Carrey or George Burns echoing between our ears.

If we like those images, we don’t want them tampered with. Why mess up a good thing?

Or if we do NOT like those images, perhaps that deters us from digging deeper into who God really is. We don’t want to make things even worse.

But regardless of our scenario, we DON’T really know God like we think we do. Our minds can never grasp him. We have to keep seeking him and continually letting our old image of God die as he reveals himself to us in new and true ways.

We won’t be disappointed. He promises to exceed our highest expectations.

(2) It doesn’t really matter how I see God.
Michelangelo: He already had a job, and didn’t want this one.
Me: I’ve got enough to do, and it doesn’t really matter what I think about God anyway.

Pope Julius II lured Michelangelo to Rome on the promise that he could build the pope’s spectacular tomb. But he effectively diverted him to the Sistine Chapel job instead, a task that Michelangelo initially did not want, but took to secure the tomb project later.

Look beyond the immediate to see the more important larger picture. Michelangelo did. We think: “I’ve got more urgent things facing me than researching God.” But we’re wrong. Taking the time to learn about God will make everything we do later more meaningful, more purposeful, more satisfying.

Why miss out on the good life now from not walking in closer step with God? Who has it together enough to NOT need to know him better?

(3) It’s too hard; I’m not a theologian.
Michelangelo: He wasn’t a painter; he was a sculptor. He had much to learn.
Me: God is too big. I can’t do this.

Did you know Michelangelo didn’t feel qualified to paint the Sistine Chapel? Painting wasn’t his expertise. But the world is glad he took it on.

Is it too hard to really know God? Well, yes! He IS too big for us to get our arms around. But he is not untouchable.

Who fully understands their spouse? Or their child? Does that mean we shouldn’t try to know them better anyway?

God wants us to seek him so that he can be found. No, we’ll never fully understand God, but we’ll find joy in the trying. And he’ll give us as much success as we can handle.

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.
Isaiah 55:6


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