I am convinced that God is a painter.
He’s the best painter in the universe. He produces masterpieces every single day of the year. But unlike the tableaux of the great masters this world has seen, His work is always displayed in free exhibits that are easily accessible to the general public.
Amazingly, He allows viewers to copy His oeuvres in oils, watercolors, sculpture and photography. And the best part is that He doesn’t sue others for their counterfeit reproductions.
One of His greatest mediums is light. To me, the science behind light is absolutely fascinating. Everything that we see, even color, is based on it. Light is an electromagnetic wave made up of 7 main wavelengths that vibrate, and every object (except those that are black and white) absorbs 6 out of those 7 wavelengths. For example, tree leaves appear green because they absorb every wavelength except green. The green wavelength reflects off of their surface which “produces” color and that reflection travels to our optic nerves. Our brain takes that information and labels leaves as “green.” White objects reflect all of the wavelengths and conversely, black objects absorb them. White light is refracted when it travels through transparent optical elements such as glass – we commonly refer to them as prisms. Most of the time we think that prisms have to be made of glass, but that’s not necessarily the case. Water molecules can act as prisms, as well; that’s why after it rains we sometimes see rainbows in the sky. They’re formed when enough water molecules are condensed together and positioned in such a way that they catch the sunlight as it breaks through the clouds.
This process is the main method by which God creates His paintings and the sky is His most commonly used canvas.
Scientifically, sunrises and sunsets are created in a fashion similar to that of rainbows. The gases and particles that make up Earth’s atmosphere act as prisms, and as the sun follows its 24 hour trajectory – or more accurately, as the earth rotates on its axis – light strikes those particles at varying angles. The most spectacular refractions occur when those angles are acute, or in other words, at the beginning and the end of the day. Sunrises transform the monotone periwinkle color that exists in the pre-dawn sky to light blues, grays, purples, pinks, and even some greens; soft oranges and yellows gradually take over the pallet as Earth turns closer to the sun. When the sun is “directly overhead,” only one color refracts: blue. Then, as Earth rotates farther away from sun the process reverses itself, vivid bold colors fire up the sky until finally, night shrouds the planet.
So what does this mini science lesson have to do with God’s artistry or anything else? Well, kind of a lot… First of all, He gives us at least two beautiful creations a day to contemplate. Secondly, it acts as a metaphor for the blessings, joys, trials, and sacrifices that make up the totality of our lives.
Over the past several weeks, it has dawned on me – no pun intended – that our life experiences are exactly like the process I just described. And no, I’m not talking about birth and death. I’m talking about the decisions we make, the activities that we do and the events that turn into life-changing milestones. A prospect shows up on the horizon and as we contemplate the various consequences it would have on our lives if we accept or reject it, our mind travels down several different paths. To illustrate, let me use a personal example. When I first started researching the Boren Fellowship, I envisioned the numerous possibilities that could potentially open up if I were to be awarded the funds.
Here’s a short list: going to Africa, finishing my PhD in a pertinent field and focus, working in Washington D.C. or an embassy somewhere in Africa or the French speaking world, getting a position in the State Department, eventually making it back to BYU to teach there, etc, etc, etc. Heck, it may even be a round-about way to finally meeting the man that I’ll eventually marry and start a family with. I can’t even begin to tell you how and in what way this one thing – winning the fellowship – will catapult me into the rest of my life. It will literally put me at a crossroads comprised of several good, productive and satisfying options for me and my family.
We’ve all experienced something like this. Going off to college, starting a new job, getting married, having children, moving to a new town, and the list goes on and on. The options and opportunities these events and/or decisions could provide, seen at the beginning of the “day,” are like the various colors that appear in the sky during a sunrise. They’re beautiful, exciting and at times, scary. The only thing that we can see is the sky; the details of the earth or the things that are directly before us are obscured in darkness. Yet the sky inspires us, takes our breath away and causes us to declare, It’s going to be a beautiful day.
As we take the first step on the journey and travel its path, the colors that we initially saw will disappear from sight until we see just one color: blue. The sacrifice of working hard. As the day progresses the details of what actually lay before us gradually appear. Most of the time they’re the mundane things of everyday life. Completely boring. Exactly like what we did previous to this new journey. Hard. Stressful. Annoying. At times, depressing. Just like the light of mid-day can be garish and uncomfortable at times, working for our goals requires grit and determination.
Sometimes rainclouds develop and unleash torrential thunderstorms. When that happens, sometimes the only thing that keeps us going is the memory of the beautiful light display of the sunrise. Despite the times that they put life on hold, thunderstorms are essential because they replenish the earth and the earth provides the substance that we need in order to carry on. They also give rise for moments where we pause, reflect, and regather our forces that we need as we strive to achieve our goals. Sometimes those thunderstorms give rise floods of negativity and destruction. But just like in real life, the water eventually dries up and people rebuild. We shouldn’t necessarily read those events as signs to give up.
We also have to remember that despite the heat of the day, direct sunlight allows us to see the smiles of our friends and family members and the beautiful intricacies of the life and world around us. It warms the body and soul. It also lights the way before us and helps us see with clarity. Storms and floods remind us of what is important in life and hopefully, they help us return to our roots and rally around our family as we get ready to continue forward.
Eventually the day and the journey come to a close. Once again the color of the sky transforms. Instead of the “mundane” blue of day, deep, bright yellows and oranges slowly burn down to patches of red like flames that retreat into logs and reveal fiery embers. Bold pinks splash the sky like the splatters of a Jackson Pollack painting. And finally rich, velvety blues and purples melt into the midnight blues and black of night. Throughout this day-long process the sky didn’t physically change. Neither did the light. The position of Earth changed and adjusted the refracting process at various parts of the day. Perspective colored the sky, just like it colors our outlook on life. We realize that the boring blue that we saw in the afternoon only reflected one tiny portion of the total light spectrum.
Similarly, when we were in the thick of our trials or efforts to achieve a goal, we can only see that our patience is being tried, that this particular thing is really, really hard or we think that we’re not making any headway. We forget that those periods are chunks of time taken out of context and that the picture is much larger than the here and now. When we persevere and hang on until the end of the day, we’re reminded that light is made up of several colors, not one. Hindsight is a refractive tool. As we look at our journey and the satisfaction of having completed it, we will see that all of it was beautiful, even despite the bumps we experienced along the way.
If an individual were to watch an artist paint on a blank canvas, I guarantee that he or she would wonder more than once how the artist was going to transform seemingly unrelated shapes and colors into a completed painting. But that individual should remember that the Artist saw the end product in His mind long before He began painting it. He knows what He is doing. He knows what brushes He needs to use, He knows what mediums will create the best effects, He knows how to mix the colors, He knows where to put the brushstrokes. He sees the overall picture, He has the grand perspective. Just trust Him and know that when all is finished, everything will be breathtaking.
Just like the sunset.
**Author’s note: All of these photographs are property of LarkPrints Photography. Other than including my watermark, none of the photos were edited**