Something startling, but also interesting, happened one evening as I was leaving my room at the Bed & Breakfast where I was staying.
I noticed several police vehicles across the road, blue lights flashing and people running around. Apparently, the homeowner had just committed suicide.
It still sends chills down my spine just thinking about it. Two houses down from there I could hear merry laughter making its way to the street – homes so near each other yet both expressing very different moods. As I ate dinner with a heavy heart, Mona Lisa, the priceless work by Leonardo Da Vinci, came to mind.
An interesting fact is that Mona Lisa has her own fan mail address. There are two recorded suicides where men have taken their own lives and left suicide notes for her.
No money can buy her, no heart can claim her, she has her own room in the Louvre in Paris and she is protected by bulletproof glass where no one can ever touch her.
Did you know that Mona Lisa’s smile changes depending on where you are viewing the painting from? It really depends on where you are standing; just move a little to the left and her immortal smile changes. So your perspective is really influenced by the seat you have. Crazy, isn’t it? It’s the only painting in the world known to do this. There is, of course, a scientific explanation and it has to do with the paints and oxides used and canvas preparation.
What made me think of the Mona Lisa? It wasn’t her smile but rather the ability of her smile to change. Maybe if the suicidal man had shifted position, life would have looked different. He had the same life on the same street as the people three houses down the road, but they laughed while he just couldn’t handle any more.
And so it is with God. Our point of reference, i.e. where we are standing, influences our perception of Him. Some see God through eyes of pain and despair. Some see him as a “vengeful god”, a monster who allowed this universe to sink into anarchy, and yet some see Him as the very definition of love itself. So which is He? Here is the test to see if you have the right position while staring at God’s portrait.
When the scripture describes how God walked in the garden, calling ‘”dam, Adam, where are you?” — Gen 3:9– what do you hear? Creation falls silent at His voice, flowers bow their heads in reverence. But do you hear a policeman blowing a whistle, shouting: “Now I’ve got you!” or do you hear a Father desperately crying out to his child who has just fallen into danger?
Answer that question and it will tell you whether or not you have the right seat when staring at God’s portrait. You see, I can tell you what I see from where I stand right now, but the only way to interpret the painting correctly is to stop trying to analyse God’s smile. Is it vengeful and sadistic or gentle and kind? Does it change? For a moment forget the smile and look at the corner of the painting; there in the background – can you see it? A badly bruised man hanging on a lonely cross, a terrible cross, covered in blood, a cross on which a Father not only gave up his Son for the sake of the world but gave him up willingly.
Truth be told, God does have a smile and every now and then when He looks at me I catch a glimpse of that magnificent smile, but it’s always from the shadow of His cross.
I stare at the portrait, I see His smile, I see His cross, I hear His cries from that lonely hill and I hear His laughter and I realise that they are truly inseparable. It’s the cross that makes His smile so magnificent. But then again, that’s just from where I’m standing.