Follow the Leader
by Adam R. Nettesheim
Tonight I pulled out a big Bible published by the fine people at Readers Digest (yes THAT Readers Digest) that comes with pictures of artifacts, cultural insights and in certain sections color prints of Bible story paintings done by the great masters. I was flipping through it while my Son sat on my back and looked on with me. We looked at one about the creation of Adam by William Blake, another medieval painting about Noah and the Ark (which had a rather small ark – could fit 15 animals in, 25 if they were small), then my Daughter came in and wanted to see a picture of a queen, so we found one of The Queen of Sheba’s visit to King Solomon and then moved on to the New Testament section. I flipped open a page that had a painting of the story of The Good Samaritan on it and asked my Son if he knew who painted it. My Son paused, looked over at the greeting card on my wall (given to me by Jennifer Rundlett, yes THAT Jennifer Rundlett) and then looked back at the painting I was pointing to. “Ban Gogh!” I couldn’t have been more proud. Mispronunciation aside, my Son knew the brushstrokes of this master because he had seen them before. His dad loves Van Gogh and has shown him Van Gogh’s work before and his dad has a greeting card print of Van Gogh stuck to the wall by his bedside. He’s seen those brushstrokes before so he knows what they look like. I was so proud.
~ Proverbs 22: 6
“Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
As a Dad I get pretty worried about how I’m doing. I wonder if I’m equipping my kids enough to inherit the every increasingly scary world that’s outside our door. What will the world look like when they step out, suitcase in hand, ready to make it on their own? Will things look better or worse than 2020? I don’t know. I don’t know how to specifically equip them to face the things they will be facing.
It’s interesting to me that in this painting, Van Gogh is copying someone. The full title of the piece is “The Good Samaritan, after Delacroix”. Van Gogh was emulating a master he wanted to ‘follow’ too. Paul says “Follow me as I follow Christ.” He’s not saying “Do what Paul does” but rather “Do what Paul does by following who Paul follows.” In this way, Van Gogh chases Delacroix as Delacroix is chasing Christ by giving us a vision of this parable. It’s like a long game of follow the leader. The person in the middle doesn’t always see the leader, they see the back of the head of the person in front of them. But in the end, they are not following that person, they are really following the leader.
Maybe we would all do well to label our lives “(our name), after Christ”. And maybe that’s the best thing I can do for my kids. Not teach them to follow me and look to me to provide them wisdom, direction and equipment for whatever lies ahead. But rather to teach them how to look for the brushstrokes of the Master, the Master that WILL be there with them through whatever comes next and beyond. If I can help them see His brushstrokes and learn how to follow His guidance, that’s probably the best gift I can give them.
Follow the Leader.
From Jennifer: I actually got to see this painting when I was visiting the touring Van Gogh exhibit in Houston last year. I didn’t know that I was going to be standing in front of this painting. I was surprised at how large it was and as always it is marvelous to stand up close and personal with those mighty brush strokes. Thanks for writing this piece and I am definitely following your lead:)