Viewing the world from six inches away


When I was 18 years old, a friend of mine invited me to an art museum. Normally, I'm not a big fan of art museums, but the friend was a girl, so I went.


The museum was laid out in such a way a person entering the front door had to walk through every single hallway before he or she could finally exit and get lunch. I was hoping to set a new speed record for walking through a museum, but my friend was more inclined to walk as slowly as possible and see every exhibit, so we walked as slowly as possible.


Our journey started with African art, and then we moved into the modern art section. It was here where I started to get very, very bored. How could a line drawn horizontally through the middle of canvas, or paint thrown behind a jet engine be considered art? I don't want to insult anybody, but I just didn't get it.


Finally we moved into what I called the classical art section. These were paintings, some hundreds of years old, which had amazing amounts of detail. In many cases it looked like the artist spent hours, even days, painting each person's fingernail. I found myself looking at the entire painting and then walking as close as I could get to the painting, about six inches away, and looking at all the details.


I continued this with three to four paintings until I realized I was working too hard. At that point I changed my tactic. I stood close to each painting, looked at all the detail, and then sidestepped to the next painting. I did this with roughly 10 paintings until I came to one that looked absolutely horrible. It was just a bunch of splotches all over the canvas.


I looked back at my friend and said, "This one is in the wrong section, it needs to be back in the modern art." My friend laughed and said, "Take a step back." So I did. Before me formed the most beautiful painting I had ever seen. It was an original Monet. From six inches away it looked like a bunch of splotches on the canvas, but from a distance the true, beautiful painting appeared.


Over the years, I noticed this phenomenon happens so often in our lives. We face frustrations, heartaches, the stresses and strains of the day, our own personal failures and the failures of those around us. Our lives look like a big collection of splotches. We can easily focus on these frustrations and miss the big picture.


I have talked to many military members and spouses who focused on some of the annoying habits or attitudes of their kids, and missed the joys of the limited time they have with them. Many of us focus on the seemingly disrespectful or unloving actions of our spouses, and miss the big picture of two imperfect people who choose to stick together through thick and thin. Some may focus too much on annoying practices of policy in the Air Force and miss the honor we get serving our country and taking care of our families.


As a chaplain, I believe God is the one who paints the big picture. When I focus on all the little problems and annoyances, I miss the masterpiece God paints in my life. When I focus on the arguments I have with my wife, I miss the beautiful marriage he develops despite our insecurities. When I focus on some of the mistakes my teenage sons make, I miss the amazing men they are becoming with God’s help and direction.


Too often we find ourselves looking at our lives and the people around us from six inches away. These are truly works of art. Take a step back and appreciate the beauty.