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What Painting Restoration Taught Me About the Redeeming Work of God

People looking at the Mona Lisa

Restoration is defined as the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing or cleaning it, or the act of returning something that was stolen.

Last summer, I had the privilege of taking an art restoration course in Florence, Italy under a renowned scholar and expert in the field. Prior to enrolling in this course, I knew very little about art conservation. I had visited countless museums where I’d seen some of the world’s most famous paintings, yet in my ignorance I never questioned how these ancient masterpieces still looked so good. You see, the moment a painting is hung on a wall it begins to deteriorate. The canvas slowly stretches out and tears, dirt accumulates on the surface, paint chips, and varnish needs to be removed and reapplied. Conservation restores what was once beautiful so audiences can continue to admire the artwork for years to come.

I learned all about the different techniques used in art conservation through hands-on experience in restoring a painting to its original grandeur. The process is complicated and delicate. The conservator intensively labors and becomes familiar with the details of each painting—minutia such as the pigments and fabrics that comprise the DNA of the painting and go unnoticed by the average observer. The conservator must take into account what the painting has undergone in the past as he honors the original intentions for the painting.

I can’t help but connect the restoration of art to God’s renewing and perfecting of His children. We are the handiwork of God, created by Him and for Him. We are the crowned jewels of Creation because we are image bearers of a Holy God. Genesis 1 and 2 depict God’s original design for His creation—for us to live in perfect harmony with Him and flourish in the joy and presence of our Maker.

After the Fall, God’s pure and holy connection with His unblemished children was severed. Yet, in His perfect love, He has bridged a way for us back to Him through His Son. Christ is our hope—our ultimate restorer! Our salvation comes from and through Him, and He is making us new! We are no longer dead and decaying in sin but alive in Christ, renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator.

We are all works of art in progress, for God is in the business of shaping, molding, and reviving us. Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, has started a good work in us and will carry it out to completion. Restoration of the church entails Christ taking back what is His and endowing it with complete joy and fullness of life. Sanctification is a lifelong process, but we know the eternal outcome is that we will be restored once and for all, perfect, holy, and complete—set apart as a pleasing bride for Christ, covered in His righteousness.  All the things that we find unforgivable in ourselves are not only forgiven by Christ but are being used by God to do something better than we can imagine.

Through the grace of God, we are redeemed and restored. Scripture gives us a peak into this glorious future:

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).

God is not done with us yet. Praise God for all that He has done, all He is doing, and all that is to come!

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