Yellow is not my favorite color. But now that I know the story of Vincent van Gogh, I have come to value yellow differently. This famous Dutch painter, sadly, tossed away the truth imported to him in his Christian home and sank into depression and destruction. By the grace of God, as he later began to embrace that truth again, his life took on hope, and he gave that hope color.For van Gogh, the hope and warmth of the truth of God’s love was bathed in yellow. As I ruminated on this color-vision, I realized that for me that hope, warmth and love and the grace and glory that goes with it—all those things that saturate God’s Kingdom—scream the color green.
The best-kept secret of van Gogh’s life is that the truth he was discovering is seen in the gradual increase of the presence of the color yellow in his paintings. Yellow evoked (for him) the hope and warmth of the truth of God’s love. In one of his depressive periods, seen in his famous The Starry Night, one finds a yellow sun and yellow swirling stars, because van Gogh thought truth was present only in nature. Tragically, the church, which stands tall in this painting and should be the house of truth, is about the only item in the painting showing no traces of yellow. But by the time he painted The Raising of Lazarus, his life was on the mend as he began to face the truth about himself. The entire picture is (blindingly) bathed in yellow. In fact, van Gogh put his own face on Lazarus to express his own hope in the Resurrection.
Why green? A few years ago, I was reading through Romans and stumbled unexpectedly into this green way of seeing:
By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.For me, Peterson’s translation conjures up images of the greenest and richest land, like the “upward and onward” of Narnia or the vast richness of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It’s endless and full of sun and rain and smells like the lushest, cleanest earth. It’s beyond description.
(Romans 5:1-2, Eugene Peterson’s The Message [italics mine])
But to box the Kingdom into a land would be wrong. It’s far more than a terra firma. It has no boundary—and it’s living. It’s wild and full and exploding with constant life and movement. It is untamed and vibrant and ever-moving-and-never-ceasing. It is, as Romans says, the wide, open spaces of God’s rule, grace and glory.
And, while it would be enough to think that God would allow me to live in a Kingdom like that, he goes one unbelievable step further: that borderless, expanding, over-abundant and wildly ever-moving Kingdom lives in me—and you. That Kingdom not only enfolds us but binds and connects us and propels its life in and through us. And that leaves me breathless.
O Lord, bathe my vision in green. Grant me ability to see more of that lush, over-abundant and wildly thrashing land in which we live—which lives in us. Draw me deeply into your kingdom—and explode your Kingdom in us, your children, so that the world might stumble in joy as it finds the truth and peace and love You are.
(Image: Vincent Van Gogh's The Raising of Lazarus; WebExhibits)