The Sunday Sermonette October 17, 2023. In the mid-sixties, I took art at the Gulfport Recreation Center. The building was located east of City Hall, where the current fire station is. The art classes were taught by a frail-looking dynamo of energy, Mrs. Effie Gridley. She taught hundreds of children and adults the art of mixing oil paint, applying it to a canvas, and creating something beautiful. Of course, when it came to my paintings, beauty was in the eye of the beholder.

I had minimal talent when it came to painting, but I did love history as much as she did. Miss Effie, as everyone addressed her, took a shine to me because of that love, inviting me to her home for private art lessons, which I’m sure was an act of love due to my lack of talent. After the other students left, often on rainy-cold Saturday afternoons, we would sit in front of her artist studio’s massive stone fireplace, eating her homemade sugar cookies and drinking green tea, her favorite. During those languid afternoons, she often regaled me with stories about her days as a young artist.

I was enthralled by them, one of which was her remembrances of Renoir.
In the years just before World War I, her father, very avant-garde for the day, sent her to Paris to study art. While there, she met many famous artists of the day, including Renoir and Monet. Through her, I first heard of Renoir’s debilitating arthritis, which crippled him in the last years of his life. It was so bad that the artist had to have an assistant put the brush in his hand. He could grip the brush but could not pick it up.

When Renoir painted Tilla Durieux’s portrait in 1914, he was so paralyzed that he had to sit in a wheelchair, painfully gripping the brush, dipping it onto his palette ladened with bright blobs of paint, which he fashioned into another artistic masterpiece. There were times when he could be heard moaning from pain as he applied the color to the canvas. When asked why he continued to paint when it caused him so much pain, he said, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”

Could the same be said for the crucifixion of Christ? As he was dying on the cross in great agony from the nails that had ripped his flesh and the splinters digging into his frayed back from the beating he received from the Roman guards, Jesus most certainly experienced horrendous pain. And that pain lasted for hours. When He cried—My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?—did he see the beauty in his pain?

Renoir continued to paint his masterpieces till the day he died. His pain created a legacy of beauty for the world. Christ’s pain on the cross created a legacy as well. For those who believe in Him and strive to obey Him, the eternal beauty of His pain is the assurance of an eternity in Heaven. Yes, there can be beauty born of pain.

Ponder this and go forth.

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