Monday, October 24, 2011

Contemplating Perfection

After five tedious months, Asherel has completed her entry for the NRA Wildlife Youth Art Contest. She has spent 5-7 hours a day on it for the past two months, while I have read her school work to her. She spent several hours a day during the three months prior to that. It has really been a monumental effort. She knows that the judges will not care that she devoted 1/28th of her entire life on earth to this wolf, however, and she will be judged on the merit of the final outcome. And of course, that judgment is subjective, and may not go the way we hope it would. For now, she is just relieved to have finished it.

Now after all this time, the last thing she must do is name it. After five hard months of effort on a piece of art, it deserves a stupendous name.
I matted it for her and then held it up in all its finished splendor.
"What will be the title?" I asked, filled with expectant wonder.
"How about Wolf Standing on Rock?" she said.
I lowered the painting, "Can you think of something more poetic?"
"Wolf Standing on A Rock?"
"Let's just go all out and call it The Wolf Standing on A Rock."
Or maybe even The Wolf Standing on A Rock with Grass in the Background.

She was tired. The wolf was supposed to be done a month ago, we thought. And each night she told me it would be done the next day. But the level of detail was excruciating, and she refused to lower her standards so the wolf genesis crept along more slowly that the gestational period of real wolves.  I suppose there is no name that would give proper justice to how much struggle, time, effort, despair, and delight went into the wolf. I came out this morning and stood a long time looking at the picture. Maybe obvious is the best choice after all. What does one title a picture grasping so ardently for perfection?

When Ezekiel goes before the people of Israel to confront them with their sin, how short they fall from the righteousness of God, he uses the Temple as a goad to their conscience. He tells them to look upon the beautiful temple of God, designed in exact conformation to God's plan. He tells them to consider all its exits, and entrances, and the laws contained within. It was constructed exactly as God required, and it was described by Ezekiel as Perfection.  There are only 7 times the word Perfection is used in the Bible, and most are from Ezekiel. In every case, however, except the Perfection of the temple, the word was used in paragraphs that showed how perfection on earth was always temporal, always limited, always vanished in the end. There would be no lasting perfection made by man. However, the seventh time the word perfection is used is in the book of Hebrews. The author of Hebrews tells us if perfection could have been achieved by the old order of human striving and sacrifice in repentance when they fell short, then there would have been no need for Jesus. But humankind always would fall short, would never reach perfection, not on their own.

I stood in front of the wolf picture, marveling at my daughter's use of form, light and dark, design, color and especially the incredibly detailed rendering of every hair on the wolf in a very difficult medium. He has a pensive look on his face, as he stands atop a rock, looking out over the beauty of God's creation. How about Contemplating Perfection for a name?

Psalm 119: 96
96 To all perfection I see a limit,
   but your commands are boundless.


  1. Oh, I hope she does well in the contest!

  2. I know...after all that work it would be really sad if she doesn't but that is the nature of art contests.