Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (The Clouds) 1903
In reflecting upon how Claude Monet in his painting Water Lilies (The Clouds) showed how the beauty of the water lilies was highlighted with the image of clouds, I wrote the piece below. Please feel free to comment on this question. How can we make the dark and ugly parts of our life into something beautiful, which will inspire others?
Beauty among the clouds
One of my favourite painters is Claude Monet. Many of his pieces contained the use of more dark than light colours. He used light to highlight or beautify the darkness, just as spice is used to highlight and give interest to a dish. One of the scenes he painted was of clouds and water lilies. What do you think of when you see a cloud? Do you like the white ones or the ones that have their own unique grey hue, heralding a possible thunderstorm?
Notice that no clouds though are purely white. This is just how your eyes view the cloud. Neither are there any clouds that appear to us as totally being black. All clouds have some shade of colour.
Life and the choices we make with it are neither as easy as being black and white or comparitively life experience that is either bad or good. We often refer to life as having shades of grey.
It would be far easier if life was so neat and simple, that the decisions we make are easy to determine as being right or wrong. On a humorous note I had a math teacher named Mr. Wrong, who was also a philosopher of life. He said we could solve a problem our way or the Wrong way. He preferred us to follow the Wrong method of solving mathematical equations. For him the right way was the Wrong way. And, yes he spelled his name just as I have written it, the Wrong way:)
In Monet’s Water Lilies (The Clouds) notice how the image of the clouds enhances the picture, and gives it contrast. It is far easier to see the ugliness in life. So much of what is on TV has dark themes. It is harder to find movies or TV programs that contain positive life-affirming stories. The darkness shrouds the light, the message of hope that in the storm clouds of life, there is a hope beyond ourselves to see us through the crisis.
My wife, Karen, and I, have a cat named Princess Catherine of Chaos a.k.a. Her Royal Highness, Catherine of Englehart. She is grey. We appreciate her because she is neither black nor white. For us her grey colour gives her character.
Our other furry miscreant is Sir William of Lounge a.k.a. Sir Lounge a Lot a.k.a. Sir William at Large when he makes his triumpant entry into our bedroom or does his kitty Houdini escape act, by going out on our roof. He is a tiger-striped cat. His dark stripes highlight the light golden stripes. William knows he is a handsome cat with cattitude. Many were disappointed when William chose to crawl up into my lap in my wheelchair along with his sister, Catherine.
As I was dealing with a progressive neuro degenerative disorder that continues to affect my mobility, William and Catherine reminded me that even in the ugliness of dealing with this life challenge, there was their beauty with me.
The water lily needs the mud it grows in to survive. The mud gives it its essential nutrients. It also protects the fragile beauty of the water lily. There is no beauty in the mud, but it keeps the beauty of the water lily alive. The mud becomes beautiful because of how important it is for the survival of the water lily.
The clouds in Monet’s masterpiece of Water Lilies( The Clouds) highlight the beauty of the water lilies. Our life is like that picture. If we look hard enough for it we can find our own light even amidst the darkness in it. We are all beautiful masterpieces under construction. The picture is still being painted. Will we allow the divine creator of our life to shape us into the work of art we are in the making? Will we dwell solely on the darkness? Will we let the light or the darkness win?
One of the songs that moves me so much inside is Something beautiful. When we let the world filled with its darkness and emptiness out of us and let Christ in, He can make something beautiful of all the ugliness inside of us. Isaiah 53:2 records that there was nothing stately or magnificent about Christ. There was no earthly beauty to our Savior, but within there was a radiant beauty that shone from Christ that attracted others to Him. He was the light of hope that had come into a world of suffering and strife to free us all from our dark side.
All my confusion He understood
All I had to offer Him was brokenness and strife
But He made something beautiful of my life
I really want you to think about this question. Do you think your life has become so ugly that nothing beautiful can be made from it? The abuse I experienced from my manic depressant schizophrenic father made me feel ugly inside. After being told in too many ways to mention fully in this piece that I was lazy, stupid, clumsy and a good for nothing, I began to believe the negative programming. It was only as I truly allowed Christ into my life, that He began to make something beauiful of all the darkness and ugliness in it. If my Lord can do that for me, how much more could He do for you right now if you gave Christ all your darkness, all your hurt, pain and despair, all the ways you feel ugly inside?
It’s been a really tough journey to give Christ all my pain and sorrow,all the ways in which like my Savior I felt rejected and despised. My life masterpiece is still being painted. I will need to go into further valleys of darkness to fully heal from my abuse.
It’s rough admiting that we have been abused whether it is physical or emotional. It takes trust to be open with others about it. Guys rarely come forward about their abuse because many of us were raised to be strong, to wrongly gunnysack the pain. We are men. Yet, if we accept that Christ in additon to being the divine son of God was also a flesh and blood human-being, we know that like us Jesus had human emotions. Christ was disappointed that His disciples had abandoned Him, failing to stay awake and pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. The curtain on the human drama of Christ’s earthly life was coming down. The hour of His crucifixion was drawing closer. Jesus said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”(Matt. 26:38, NASB).
According to Dr. Dave Miller, Director of an online magazine entitled Apologetics Press, there is theological speculation that the physician, Luke, wrote that Christ was under so much emotional stress over His impending crucifixion, that He might have even had a medical condition called hematidrosis, which is also known as hemohidrosis. This condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat (Luke 22:44). It is interesting to note that this description of the exact degree of Christ’s suffering is not recorded in any of the other synoptic gospels. During times of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394). Although the condition is rare 76 cases were reported of hematidrosis in the later part of the twentieth century.
According to the article by Dr. Dave Miller, Ph.D., Did Jesus Sweat Blood? “Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes for hematidrosis (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.”This gives a greater picture for us of the magnitude of Christ’s suffering.
In Christ’s hour of need His followers were missing in action. They fell asleep at their post. They had failed in the responsibility He had asked them to shoulder. It was the equivalent of a soldier falling asleep while on watch to keep a watchful eye out for an enemy attack. It was a gross dereliction of the duty Christ had given all of the disciples to stay awake.
I thank you for the many notes of encouragement I have received as I get counseling for my own abuse. There were times like many of you I felt abandoned by my Father. Yet, the beauty that has come from the ugliness and pain of that horrific time, is that I’m reaching out to all those who have been abused whether it was by a Christian, a complete stranger or a relative.
Many of us have our own private hell of suffering. It as we all come out of our prisons of fear and torture, that we can make something beautiful out of our life We can touch ohers with the message that God loves the abused. I find that as I reach out to ohers about my abuse, that the beautiful thing happening is others are progressing in their own inner healing journey. That is making beauty out of the ashes . It is making sweet lemonade out of all he lemons in my life.
We all have our dark side. Like the water lily making beauty out of muck, we can let Christ make beauty from our dark side.
Barbet, P. (1953), A Doctor at Calvary: The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ as Described by a Surgeon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image Books).
Holoubek, J.E. and A.B. Holoubek (1996), “Blood, Sweat, and Fear. ‘A Classification of Hematidrosis,’ ” Journal of Medicine, 27[3-4]:115-33.
Lumpkin, R. (1978), “The Physical Suffering of Christ,” Journal of Medical Association of Alabama, 47:8-10.
Sutton, R.L. Jr. (1956), Diseases of the Skin (St. Louis, MO: Mosby College Publishing), eleventh edition.