Where we begin matters. Many of us know the artist Michelangelo by his famed 17-foot sculpture of David that resides in Florence, Italy. Michelangelo was 26 years old when he began sculpting David, a process that took him three years. The statue was carved out of a single piece of marble that was deemed by others as flawed, so it sat for nearly 25 years. That same piece of stone in the eyes and hands of Michelangelo was David. 

Michelangelo was the most famous sculptor of his day and the highest paid. And “by 1508, the artistic community of Rome felt so threatened by Michelangelo’s mercurial rise to fame that they devised a plot intended to discredit and degrade the young artist.” 

They would persuade Pope Julius II to have Michelangelo paint the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. They were convinced that the young sculptor, who had never attempted a fresco before, would inevitably fail or, at the very least, become embroiled in a time-consuming effort that would remove him from the competition for years. 

Michelangelo at first refused, protesting that he was a sculptor, not a painter. However, Pope Julius insisted and finally prevailed. It was arduous work that required Michelangelo to constantly paint while lying on his back atop scaffolding that raised him within inches of the ceiling. 

Michelangelo was concerned that his work as a painter was not up to the standards of other great artists at the time. Each time he looked at the chapel’s ceiling, he saw imperfection after imperfection in his painting.

Legend has it that Michelangelo was painting up on the scaffolding one afternoon, and he fell asleep. He dreamed that God looked at his work in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo said, “God, I am so sorry for the many ways I have defamed you in this painting. It’s not worthy of you, God.” And God said, “Michelangelo, what are you talking about?” Michelangelo said, “I mean, look here and there! I’ve made mistakes. It’s not perfect. Painting isn’t my gift; I’m a sculptor.” God said, “Oh Michelangelo, you have not defamed me. The painting is beautiful. The problem is, you are viewing the painting through your eyes; you’re not looking at it through my eyes. If you could see it through my eyes, you would see that it is beautiful!”

It turns out where we begin matters. If we begin with imperfection, we will only see imperfection. If we begin with goodness, it changes everything. It changes how we come to know our very selves, how we understand the divine, how we live in a relationship with the divine, and how we live with one another. Where we begin matters. I want you to begin with goodness in 2022, for if we begin there, we may just catch a glimpse of how God sees us and the world. 

With great hope, 

Matthew

 


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