When was the last time you lost your breath in wonder? When was the last time you paused and just … stayed still?
A few weeks ago, some friends and I took a trip to downtown Washington D.C. We were eager to visit a historic old church for its Sunday morning service. Our balcony seats overlooked wooden pews of worshipers. I’ll be honest—I don’t remember much of the sermon. It was about the gospel, I know. The pastor spoke about how Jesus came and died for our sins. A story I knew well and proceeded to tune out.
Frankly, I was distracted by the vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows. I left church that morning untouched, unchanged.
A couple of hours later, I found myself gazing at another vaulted ceiling—this time, belonging to the National Gallery of Art. I lost track of time in rows and rows of paintings. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the National Gallery of Art, but if you love art, it’s like a parade of the most memorable masterpieces ever painted.
We were in thrilled, but not yet in wonder.
One painting caught my eye. I stopped, frozen. I couldn’t look away.
It was small—only a few feet tall. The canvas was filled by a dark blue sky and a green hill that rolled up to the viewer’s eye. On the hill was a cross where Jesus hung, arms open wide. It was like many, many other crucifixes. But unlike all the other paintings around it, this painting was not realistic. Instead, each person was shown emotionally. Jesus’ arms twisted, stretched out on the cross. The face of his mother stared up at him. You could see in her eyes that her heart was being crushed. You could see the face of a disciple—terrified, broken. You could see the pain on Jesus’ face, His determination, but at the same time, exhaustion. He was dying.
I couldn’t bear to leave. I felt … wonder.
I’ve heard the story countless times, and I imagine you have too. Sometimes when I hear it repeated, the story doesn’t strike me with force. I nod my head without thinking. I take the gospel for granted. It’s just … a story. Common, expected, as natural as the sunrise every morning.
Who knew that the image on a canvas could cling to my mind all day and stun me anew with Jesus’ death? I remembered:
My sin, it crushed Him. He chose to be beaten for my sake. He gave up the worship of legions of angels. In return, he got my still-all-too-weak heart. Still, He chose to do it.
When was the last time you’ve allowed that to happen to you? When was the last time you stopped and were caught with wonder?
I walked out of the National Gallery of Art. Cars sped down the street, speeding up as lights turned green, rushing off. At that moment, all I wanted to do was to be still and soak in the truth. At the same time, I knew I’d keep walking. Like the cars, I’d speed on to the next thing and forget all too quickly. But by God’s grace, I’ll encounter more moments of reflection. He will continue drawing me back to Himself until my heart learns to stay put and rest in that old, beautiful, true story.
When was the last time you really, truly wondered?
How often do you meditate on what Christ did for you on the cross? Have you been particularly reminded of the gospel lately?