Both Sides of the Page… An Easter Sketch by John Paul Carter
Several years ago, Carole and I went to the Kimble Art Museum in Fort Worth to see a display of sketches by Michelangelo. On loan from England's Windsor Castle, the drawings clearly illustrated the famous artist's fascination with human anatomy. Indeed, much of his genius lay in his remarkable ability to depict how muscle and bone work together to form the miracle of the human body.
Paper was a very scarce commodity in sixteenth century Rome, so artists frequently used both sides of the page for their sketches - even the famous painter of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo.
One such piece of recycled paper used by the famous artist was displayed so that you could see each side simultaneously. On one side was Michelangelo’s earlier drawing of the mythical character Tityus, who because of his sins had been sentenced by the gods to be chained to a rock for the rest of his life. Everyday a giant vulture would come and eat his vital organs, which would then grow back just in time for the next day's feast. What a picture of tragedy!
But on the opposite side of the page was a sketch that was in marked contrast to the horror of Tityus' plight - the resurrection of Jesus. The artist copied the faint outline of the prone, suffering figure from the other side of the paper and then rotated the sheet ninety degrees. In so doing, Michelangelo transformed the sinner in Hades into the standing image of the risen Christ. What a picture of triumph!
The first sketch reminds us that, sooner or later, suffering and tragedy overtakes us all. Sometimes we’re victims and other times, like Tityus, our agony is of our own doing. Whatever the reasons, we find ourselves enchained and being eaten alive.
The picture on the other side, however, speaks to us of a God who turns darkness into light, death into life, and suffering into redemption. Our Creator does not waste persons. Instead of throwing us away, he turns over the page of our tragedy and sets us upright again. We are the same but we are changed!
Oh God, thank You for using both sides of our lives. You’ve turned our pages and set us right-side-up, over and over again. Help us to trust your grace and to pass it on. Amen.