god-and-man

The Reach

I stood there, frozen, staring upward. We all did. A room packed full of people from all over the world standing shoulder to shoulder in complete silence. All of us studying the ceiling intently.

 

Regardless of our differences in faith or language or country of origin, we can all appreciate a masterpiece. The Sistine Chapel is just that – an awe-inspiring work of art, a chef-d’oeuvre by Michelangelo himself.

 

The entire work of art—the vastness of it, the intricate detail, the beautiful storytelling—is incredible. But what especially caught my eye was the image painted in the very center. God and Adam.

 

God, in all His splendor is surrounded by angels, stretching out His holy hand toward Adam. Adam, on the other hand, while painted just as beautifully as God, is naked and alone. He is reaching toward God too but, almost lazily.

 

God’s reach is intentional. He is leaning down with purpose. His arm is stretched long, eyes locked intently, lovingly on Adam. But Adam’s response does not mirror God’s. Instead, he reminds me of Elliot from the movie E.T. Lounging on his back, Adam cautiously, half-extends only his pointer finger.

 

Standing there in the middle of the silent crowd, I had the urge to scream at Adam, “Reach back, you idiot!”

 

Honesty, I think Adam’s response grieves me so, because it reminds me of myself.

 

Reaching Like Adam

 

I’d like to think that if Michelangelo painted my relationship with God, he would paint me standing on my tip-toes, arms stretched high, like a little girl trying to reach the cookies stashed in the tallest cabinet of the kitchen. While there are times when I take that posture, there are also many, many times when my reach is limp and lazy, like Adam’s.

 

Often, I would rather stand firm on my own two feet than stretch out too far. I like having God as a safety net when things get tough, but I’d prefer not to rely too much on Him. I’d rather play it safe; take only very calculated risks. It why I avoid awkward situations, like sharing the Gospel with a stranger or giving until it hurts. I am tempted to seek comfort in financial security, the approval of others, and my own capability, before trusting fully in the Creator of the Universe.

 

Like Adam, my tendency toward self-reliance, is not typically a conscious, malicious decision. I don’t wake up thinking, “I don’t need to trust God today, my {resume/salary/husband/reputation at work} is good enough.” It’s more of a terrible habit. Human nature, maybe.

 

Most times, I am simply too busy to notice that my heart has wandered and my reach weakened. The business of the world, drowns out the sounds of Him calling to me.

 

But God. He has always been there, reaching back for me (and you).

 

The Ultimate Reach

 

On Christmas day, as we reflect on the tiny baby who wrapped His little fingers around Mary’s, I am especially humbled.

 

Despite our brokenness, God Himself came to dwell with us. His love for us is so great, that Jesus Christ left His thrown to die on a cross so that one day neither of us would have to reach.

 

Because, one day soon, we will be standing together, face-to-face.

baby-jesus

 

{{I feel like this deserves a moment of silence… Oh Lord, thank you for loving us, even when our reach is weak. We are humbled and grateful. Help us to see the Nativity with fresh eyes today as we dwell on the depth of your love and grace. You are Holy and we are thankful to sit at your feet. Amen.}}

 

Stretching Past Yourself

 

I believe Michelangelo understood what it meant to reach in response to the Gospel.

 

Probably the most mind-blowing fact I learned during out tour of the Vatican was this: Michelangelo was plagued with self-doubt his entire life.

 

Of all people! The man who sculpted two of the most celebrated works of art, the David and Pietá, before he turned 30. (What?!)

 

He was originally hesitant to paint the Sistine Chapel, because he considered himself more of a sculptor than a painter. Yet he was compelled by his fierce faith and a deep conviction to serve his Creator with his gifts. So, he agreed.

 

The task was extremely difficult and laborious. Every step of the process was a literal and metaphorical reach as he lay on his back, arm stretched toward the heavens with a paint brush in hand.

 

Half a millennium later, 5,000,000 people pour into the Sistine Chapel annually to gaze upon the ceiling. The work produced by Michelangelo’s reach of faith, continues to tell a story of God’s love in a way that reaches across time and language.

 

Reaching in 2017

 

“Reachers” like Michelangelo inspire me to be more intentional in my faith, to trust Him in bigger ways, to obey readily when I hear Him whisper—even if the next step is scary or a bit uncomfortable.

 

There are many reachers in my everyday life that encourage me too:

 

Like my high school aged friends who are pursuing purity and avoiding the drinking scene. They are undoubtedly sacrificing some “popular points” or even attracting criticism by their peers, but are representing Christ well in the process. (1 Tim. 4:12)

 

Or my friend Cari who said “yes” to hosting an event for the women of Dallas, even when it grew from an intimate gathering to larger-scale, more public event than she originally expected. The step of faith was big, but the result was incredible!

 

Or my brother-in-law, Mike, who just moved 3,000 miles away from his hometown to partner with my sister-in-law as she pursues her fast-growing career. His selflessness, love, and courage to start new in a foreign place, inspires me. I am excited for how this step of faith will strengthen their marriage and know that both of their brave walks with God will breathe life into their new community.

 

They are reaching, trusting, obeying. And courageous faith looks good on them.

 

My goal for 2017 is to reach with purpose. By that I don’t mean that I plan to continue over-extending myself or say “yes” to everything. (I’ve learned that sometimes the greatest act of faith is saying, “no.”) Instead, I want to willing take brave steps of faith, to be unreservedly generous, to wake up every day with arms open and stretched upward, rather than tightened around my plans or comfort. Because, I believe that is the only right response to a God who reaches out toward us.

 

Friend, I hope this Christmas season is stirring the same desires in you too.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

4 Comments

  1. Mimi

    I read this post early this morning and it really moved me to think you were setting aside time during your awesome vacation to write such a wonderful observation of the Sistine Chapel and the meaning portrayed in the painting. I am so proud of you for allowing God to use you in this way.
    Wishing you the very best during the rest of your trip. Be safe. I love you and David

    • Morgan Eseke

      Thank you, Mimi! We are having a blast. Grateful to have the chance to see so much of God’s beautiful creation!

  2. Tori Conville

    Morgan, to say I was touched by this blog post would be an understatement. Thank you for “reaching” me with your words, God is reaching out through you to me and many others I am sure. I have been feeling so overwhelmed lately with the fluctuations of sheer joy to the heavy burden of worry and stress. And yet, these holy words have left me with peace; they have reminded me that doing life fully with God is so much better and even easier than doing life partially with God and sometimes not at all. Thank you for sharing so honestly and deeply, you did an incredible job conveying this message of Truth through your reflections of the Vatican. Thank you thank you thank you, you are so special to me, I love you Morgan!

    • Morgan Eseke

      Love you tons, Tori Truly, so encouraged by the way you two are trusting God with this big adventure! xoxo

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