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Monet 77

What are you signing your name to?

Some years ago my friend Duane Cross and I were in the Chicago area attending a preaching/speaking conference at Willow Creek Church. Before going to O’Hare to catch our plane, we spent several hours at the Chicago Art Institute.

Chicago Art Institute
Chicago Art Institute (Photo – Todd Thompson)

If someone gave me a ticket to anywhere in the country to spend a day in solitude, I’d be walking up the steps of the Chicago Art Institute. I get misty just thinking about the big lion statues that guard the front doors. Even though I can’t draw a straight line if you spot me a ruler, the Art Institute is a magical place for me. Home to some of the world’s most famous masterpieces, it is at once a place of awe, romance, inspiration and reverence. It’s impossible for me to be in the presence of such exquisite art and not worship God.

The Art Institute has an extensive Monet collection. As Duane and I stared at one of his genius examples of Impressionism, Duane said, “Check this out”, and pointed to the signature on the lower right corner of the canvas. It read simply,

Monet 77

Duane astutely observed, “Just “Monet 77”. Not “1877”. Because for Monet, what other “77” would there be?”

However self-aware Monet was of his God-given talent to paint, I doubt he could have imagined that this canvas he signed off on would be hanging in a world famous American gallery being admired by thousands of people some 130 years later.

It’s 2011. Whatever you and I sign off on today, literally and figuratively, ends in “11”. Unless you’re born this year and possess some stellar genes, it’s highly probable that this “11” is the only “11” you’re ever going to know.

Which brings us back to the question. What are you signing your name to today?

Are you signing your name and “11” to acts of service and generosity? As you walk through the parking lot at Sam’s Club are you looking for the elderly lady who could use a hand lifting the 20-pound box of Tide into her trunk? Are you stopping to buy Girl Scout cookies from the red haired, freckle faced cutie in the Brownie vest because it will make her day and if you’re going to overpay it may as well be for Thin Mints?

Are you signing your name and “11” to working with integrity in your job? Are you standing up for a co-worker who’s being gossipped about in the break room? Are you refusing to engage in office politics, choosing instead to focus on being your best in the position you occupy?

Are you signing your name and “11” to being an amazing spouse in your marriage? Are you loving your wife unconditionally and working hard to speak her love language? Are you respecting your husband unconditionally and working hard to speak his love language?

Are you signing your name and “11” to being a good parent? Are you looking as hard for what your kids do right as what they may be doing wrong? Are you building them up with words of encouragement and praise? Are you taking time to tell them stories about their heritage and where they come from that they may develop a sense of place and belonging?

Are you signing your name and “11” to being honest with God? Can you summon the courage to dump the trappings of church and religion and ask God for genuine relationship with Him? Will you release your grip on who you think you are so God can show you who He designed you to be?

What kind of brush strokes are you laying down on the canvas of your life today?

If we are signing our name and “11” to a life of living for and loving others, then the canvas of our life will be viewed and remembered long after we’re gone. Because a life lived for others leaves a legacy that points people back to God.

Monet couldn’t have imagined his canvas being honored and appreciated 130 years later. He just applied the paint with the talent God gave him and signed off on it. Which is another way of saying that if we focus on painting a beautiful life of loving others and loving God, our legacy will take care of itself.

Todd A. Thompson – February 16, 2011

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