Several years ago I was in Paris, the city of lights. I was blown away by the beauty of that city. In Paris there are many incredible art museums that contain priceless works of art, but truth be told, Paris itself is a work of art. From the towering steel of the Eiffel Tower to the elegant beauty of winding streets lined with sidewalk cafes and guarded by gargoyles, this is one amazing city. There are so many amazing works of art in Paris that many of them just blend together in your mind after a few days in the city. However, in this city that showcases the arts, there is one portrait that gets all the press. There is one painting that people always remember – one portrait people are lining up to see. Deep in the center of the most famous art museum in the world, sits the small portrait of a half-smiling, plain-looking woman. Above all the larger than life sculptures, all the Egyptian treasures and impressionist paintings, the Mona Lisa has captured the attention of all the world like no other work of art in a city of artists.
I could walk right up to the Venus De Milo and practically touch it. I could sit in front of huge murals of the Last Supper and the crucifixion for hours without being bothered by anyone; however I could get no closer to the Mona Lisa than 50 yards. There are paintings that are far more elaborate . . . far grander in scope . . . far more supernatural in subject matter, but it is the Mona Lisa that has people packed 20 deep and snapping photographs in her direction. Why is that? Have you ever asked that question? As I looked over one man’s shoulder, beneath another man’s arm pit and past a woman’s hat, to see the top corner of this painting, I wondered to myself what it was that made this painting so magnetic. What was it that made it so significant in the eyes of people? Have you ever asked yourself this question about this famous painting?
As I thought about it, you know what came to mind? What makes the Mona Lisa special is not its famous subject, or its bright colors, or its grandiose size. The brilliance of the Mona Lisa is in the small details. The slight smile. The inviting face. The relatability of painting an ordinary person in a day when only saints, gods, and martyrs were painted. These common elements are what make the Mona Lisa special. This painting is a beautiful portrait painted in plain strokes by a master artist.
You know what? When I think about the life we all live in relationship with God, I think of the Mona Lisa. Many of us would love to see God work in our lives the same way He did in New Testament times. We long to see the mighty work of God, point to it, and proclaim, “There He is! I know God is real because I see Him at work in the raising of the dead man. . . in restoring strength to the paralytic . . . in giving sight back to the blind.” We long to see God work in the grandiose, and somewhere along the way, we have convinced ourselves that it is only in such circumstances that God is actually at work. If that is your perspective, then you need to keep reading. God is not just at work in the grandiose. In fact, God has always been at work in the simple things of life. God even worked through the commonplace in the New Testament.
Take the book of Luke for instance. As you read the first two chapters of Luke which highlight the Christmas story, what do you see? As I read the first two chapters of Luke, I see God mightily at work . . . through the common strokes of life. I see God at work in the timing of Zechariah’s work schedule for entering the temple. I see God at work in the birth of two children and the selection of those parents. I see God at work in the declaring that a census be taken to get Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. I see God at work in the way a mother relates to her child. I see God at work in the very common things of life like jobs and family and political decrees. And in the process, God is painting a Mona Lisa style masterpiece of His grace for us to see.
Take a few minutes and reread the first two chapters of Luke, then ask yourself the question, “Where is God at work in my life?” We may be looking for the majestic and miss God at work in the mundane. Who do you think had you born to the parents that you have? Who do you think was at work to bring you to the University of Oklahoma? Who was it that had you grow up in the town you grew up in? Who is it that has you working at the job you are at right now? God did! And God does! He is at work in the details of our lives to sovereignly guide us to where He wants us to be. Stop for a few moments and reflect on the fact that God has been, is currently, and always will be at work in our lives . . . not just in the “big things,” but through the details of our lives. And know this . . . what God has led you to, He will see you through. Begin to see your life as a beautiful portrait of His grace painted in plain strokes by the Master Artist.