Some oil paints used by artists have a strange property. Oil paint on canvas sometimes becomes transparent as it ages. When this happens, it is possible to see the original drawings underneath: a tree will show through a woman’s dress, a horse will appear where there was once a house. Some museums actually x-ray their paintings, which also can reveal earlier versions of the picture underneath.
These re-drawings and re-paintings are called “pentimenti” because the artist “repented” or changed her mind. X-rays of oil paintings allow us to see all these changes.
A life of on-going conversion to the Lord is like this.
It is a matter of having old ideas and ways of living replaced by new images. Conversion does not forget the past, but reworks it and changes its meaning. Just like any artist, we change by seeing more deeply, understanding a little more about ourselves and, with grace, God. In a well lived life, there will be many re-paintings as we see ourselves more and more clearly in the light of God’s loving grace.
The cry of Bartimaeus, Let me see again! (Mark 10.51) is the cry of any disciple who is serious about following Jesus. Before we ask “What should I do?” we need to ask God to show us what is really happening: we need to see with God’s eyes.
How has your following of Christ changed over the years? Where has there been most re-painting - most pentimenti - in your journey?
The Dean of Sheffield Cathedral, Peter Bradley