Thursday, August 06, 2009

what would MY portrait look like?....

One of the novels I was required to read in my high school English class was The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde in 1890. The story begins with the main character, Dorian Gray, sitting for a portrait of himself; a portrait to immortalize his youth and beauty. As he spends more time with the artist's friend, Lord Henry, Dorian comes to believe that the only qualities worth pursuing are those of beauty and sensual fulfillment. The fear of losing his beauty overwhelms him and he sells his soul to save his mortal beauty by having the portrait take on his aging. As he sinks deeper and deeper into debauched acts, the portrait acts as a mirror to the effects of these acts on his soul~~becoming disfigured and grotesque as he continues his life of self fulfillment while his outward appearance remains unchanged.

I often think of Dorian Gray's portrait as I think about what our hearts must look like to God. Throughout the Bible we are taught that God knows our hearts. He knows our intentions and our desires.
  • Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart. (Psalm 44:21)
  • The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are a mere breath. (Psalm 94:11)
  • O LORD, Thou hast searched me and known me. Thou dost know when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou dost understand my thought from afar. (Psalm 139:1-2)
  • "For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. (Isaiah 66:18)
  • Then the Spirit of the LORD fell upon me, and He said to me, "Say, `Thus says the LORD, "So you think, house of Israel, for I know your thoughts. (Ezekiel 11:5)
  • For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Man judges 'beauty' by the outward actions that he sees, but God sees the motivation and intentions behind the actions. In I Samuel 16:7 the Lord tells Samuel concerning Saul, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.And in I Peter 3:3 wives are told that it is the inward character, not the outward appearance that is to be valued~~ "Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God. God knows what is in our hearts. He sees our countenance. Our hearts are our portraits.

While outwardly we may appear gracious and loving, inwardly we may be harboring resentment or thinking hateful thoughts; sins that are hidden to man, but that are known to God. And with each desire to lash out with an ugly comment or wish of retribution for those who have wronged us, our heart becomes more disfigured; more grotesque to God. To those around us we may appear "beautiful", but God knows what unkindness our hearts may be holding. And what an ugliness that must be for our Creator to behold. What if we were forced to hang that disfigured, grotesque portrait of ourselves up to be looked upon daily; to be seen by others.

Thankfully our portrait~~our hearts~~ can be a beautiful sight to our Lord. In Philippians 4:8 we are shown that our thoughts guide what is in our hearts.~~"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." If we allow Psalm 19:14, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer {my favorite verse} to be our guide, there will be no room in our hearts for those thoughts that are NOT worthy of praise. And thankfully, because Christ went to the cross for our sins, even when our heart becomes disfigured with the ugliness of sin, we are able to be made clean through the repenting of our sins.

God is our comfort and our strength. All things are possible if we call upon Him to help us. He wants us to bring our weaknesses and faults to Him; to ask Him for guidance and support. We will falter here in this life, but because God loves us we have a hope of an eternal life with no tears or sorrows; no disappointments or trials. An eternity with a pure and clean heart~~a portrait of beauty!