Martin Luther once said that prayer opens our hearts wide like an apron to receive God’s gifts. It reminds me of a print I have in my home of a painting at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. I am kind of embarrassed by how much I love it!
You see, I fell in love with this painting the first time I saw it at the Minneapolis Institute of Art as a teenager. It seemed to fit my wistful, idealistic view of the world since I hadn’t actually encountered much of “real” life yet. The painting is called “Springtime of Life” by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, a French painter from the 1800s.
I visited the art museum many times in college. I even dragged my boyfriend to see it. “Isn’t it just amazing?” I asked him. He agreed it was great (mainly because he thought I was great.) And that painting came to that same boyfriend’s mind when he needed a creative way to propose marriage to me, (after his original plan of taking me flying in an airplane in mid-September of 2001 was not possible due to the terrible events of September 11). So he took me to the art museum and when we got to my favorite painting, I noticed that he seemed really nervous. I looked over at him and was about to say, “I know, this painting just GETS me.” But he wasn’t looking at the painting; he was down on one knee and whispering “Will you marry me?” I whispered “YES.” And we lived happily ever after…
Actually we lived, and continue to live, “realistically” ever after with all the battle scars that accompany building a life together for almost 16 years – after many moves, transitions, new jobs, having a child, losing a child, having another child, and figuring out how to be grownups. Our lives don’t look like a French meadow where we catch flower petals in our aprons (and I could never get my husband to put on a pink frock anyway). Our lives are more real than that.
Reading Martin Luther’s words about prayer brought me back to this painting: God wants us to share our needs and concerns through prayer, “not because he is unaware of them, but in order that we may kindle our hearts to stronger and greater desires and spread our apron wide to receive many things.”
The word “Lent” means spring. And this painting seems to offer a Lenten/Springtime prayer posture to us: heads bowed down and aprons open wide to receive the good things that only God can give us (French meadow and pink dress optional!).
Blessed Lent to you all!