Have you ever gone on a God Hunt? A God Hunt begins when you teach yourself to look for God’s hand at work in the everyday occurrences of your life. Here’s one of my personal God Hunt Sightings:
I’ve written a book on pietàs that built an extended metaphor around this image as one that represents any time someone holds another person who is facing any kind of death scenario. Consequently, the pietàs of Michelangelo have become important to me. There are three in particular: The first is of Mary holding the broken body of her Son, a famous pietà displayed in St. Peter’s Cathedral at the Vatican in Rome. I remember watching a young man bow in front of the chapel where this sculpture is displayed; tears were running down his beautiful face. The artist was 24 years old when he sculpted this form out of the best Carrara marble—just about the age of the young man weeping beside me.
The second is the “Florentine Pietà,” housed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo behind St. Mary of the Flower Cathedral, with its amazing Dome by Brunelleschi (architects to this day don’t quite know how he constructed the octagonal cupola, which was the highest of its time and has not collapsed). As my eyes read the work, I instinctively felt this pietà was not a traditional classic Catholic sculpture. Research led me to the discovery that Michelangelo had a reformation-like conversion and from that time on, his religious works, if read astutely, display a theology that is stunning in its evidence of belief.
The last pietà, the “Rondanini Pietà,” is housed in Castello Sforzesco in Milan. Many have called it an oration(prayer) in stone. Michelangelo was 89 when he started working on it until four days before his death in 1564. I (no art scholar, to be sure) like to think the ethereal, unfinished quality in this piece presages the expressionism of modernity; at the end of his days, the artist was instinctively thrusting forward at the end of his days. He certainly wasn’t a weakling, aging and becoming infirm and unable to chisel the stone with power. One contemporary wrote that even in old age, Michelangelo could “hammer more chips out of very hard marble in a quarter hour than three young stone carvers could do in three or four … and he went at it with such impetuosity and fury that I thought the whole work must go to pieces…”
All three of these works are pregnant with meaning to me. I’ve seen each, stood before their beauty and been moved deeply; I’ve witnessed the young man weeping and heard God nudge me in ways that were surprising as I viewed the art of this genius.
When my book Comforting One Another (which I’d wanted titled Holding the Broken Body) was released, David bought me a Lenox replica of the earliest pietà. When we were in Rome again last year, we found an art photo of the Florentine pietà. I am still looking for a good copy of the Rondanini.
However, two weeks ago, I bought a cross made of spikes, and I put it on the shelf in the corner by my side of the bed. This space is often the first thing I see if I wake in the night or if I am lying in prayer before rising. I moved David’s gift of the Lenox porcelain replica to another shelf beneath the cross, and I found a frame, half-price, with glass and matting that my print of the Florentine pietà fits exactly. Without really planning for it, my eyes now fall on a material meditation on the Cross.
I am glad to wake to this visual reminder each day. I want to hold the broken body of Christ in His living body—His people who suffer the death of their dreams or the death of the fortunes or the death of their bodies. The more I open my eyes each new day and view this little corner shrine, the deeper its meaning becomes to me. And like all these spiritual tools that grow as we use them, I know through the years it will speak of richer and deeper meanings the more I gaze.
For God was pleased to have all fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile to himself all things,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
I can only imagine what Michelangelo learned through the years of meditating on God’s work through his own hard-sculpted working.
I spy God!
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.