We are all gifted in some way. We need to acknowledge this. To fail to do so is to refuse to give God the glory for the good that we achieve through our giftedness.
So what is your gift? Have you ever sat with it and praised the Almighty for the wonders you have managed to achieve through the effective use of this blessing? How did your special gift come to you? Did it come naturally or was it something you just developed over the years and came to recognise as ‘gift’? How did you discover that you were a great gardener, a skilled craftsperson, a proficient pianist, an excellent cook, a shrewd politician, an outstanding teacher? What or who helped you to develop or practice what you felt called to? Think about it. And bless all those involved in your search journey.
I picked up a book recently on the life and work of the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh by Dieter Beaujean. It is a fascinating story of the artist’s desperate search for a meaning to life. He was an art dealer in The Hague, London and Paris; a supply teacher in Ramsgate and a Methodist minister’s assistant in Middlesex, England. He worked as a bookseller in Dordrecht; embarked on theological studies in Amsterdam and was subsequently a preacher in La Borinage in Belgium for nearly two years. There, among the miners he began to draw. His missionary zeal had given way to an interest in the everyday affairs of people and he recorded his observations in drawings. The former art dealer and preacher had gradually found a sense of direction. “The systematic attention to drawing was a foretaste of his decade as an artist.”
Fr. Noailles, like Vincent van Gogh tried out different things like law and medicine and then discovered through trial, disappointment and even rejection what it was that he really wanted to give his energies to. Providence led him to priesthood. He was filled with enthusiasm to create a ‘new society’ in the aftermath of the French Revolution. This ‘new society’ would be based on love, joy, justice and peace. And the Association of the Holy Family of Bordeaux was born in 1820.
Vincent van Gogh decided that his mission would be to bring consolation to people through art. He wrote to his brother Theo: “What I want to aim at is this. I want to do drawings that touch people. I want to progress so far that people will say of my work: he feels deeply; he feels tenderly. What am I in most people’s eyes? A nonentity, somebody who has no position in society and never will have. Very well then I should want my work to show what is in the heart of a nobody. This is my ambition which in spite of everything is founded less on anger than on love.”
He succeeded in his ambition to show the world what was in the heart of a nobody. Through his art he ministered to untold numbers of people throughout the world. He discovered his gift. He used it well for others and in spite of rejection and numerous disappointments throughout his short life he kept on developing his gift to the end. “If I could only express what I feel,“ he wrote to his brother and again to his parents he wrote, “Only if I set about drawing thoroughly and seriously and try to reproduce reality will I get anywhere….”
He was so determined; so committed; so anxious to give of his best; so driven to pursue his dream. And yet the financial limitations of his work situation and inadequate support from family and friends often left him feeling that he was being treated “like a large shaggy dog with dirty paws.”
He saw the ideal artist as a producer of pictures, “which should not remain reserved for the elite public in expensive exhibitions but which-in the awareness of social obligation- should serve as a basis for reproductions “that would bring some light into the houses of the poor”.
In his paintings we notice that “even the dirtiest corner of life has a ray of light.”
Although van Gogh worked as an artist for only ten years of which six must be regarded as years of apprenticeship, he is to-day one of the most popular artists of all. In his own lifetime, he sold only one picture- The Red Vineyard of 1890.red-vineyards-at-arles
Nowadays his works- such as his Fourteen Sunflowers in a Vase– fetch ever greater sums in the auction rooms of the world.
What have you done with your special gift?
If you have discovered it and used it for others- rejoice! Praise God; keep on developing it and be amazed at the ray of sunshine you can create in the dirtiest, darkest corner of another’s life.
Margaret Bradley HFB