Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What Was Your Favorite Thing?

It's the question I get asked most about my Europe trip, and people usually expect me to say something like, "Oh my gosh, it was all so amazing, I just couldn't choose!"

But they're wrong. I have a very clear "favorite thing:"

The Sagrada Familia {Barcelona, Spain}.

{It's weird, too, because my favorite country was actually Italy. Spain was too claustrophobic and France was too stiff. I feel like Goldilocks XD Italy was juuuuust right. But back to the Sagrada Familia. *closes parenthesis*}

I had heard of the Sagrada Familia before {thanks, Cheetah Girls 2}, but I didn't know much about it. I didn't even have a clear picture of what it looked like. To be perfectly honest, I had no picture at all. I had no clue what it looked like. I knew it was old, I knew it was a church, and I, that's pretty much it.

Luckily our tour guide for Barcelona was great and I learned a lot. I can now tell you that the Sagrada Familia was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a ridiculously talented Christian architect. He liked to model his designs after nature, incorporating natural shapes and ideas. He also designed the the Parc de Guelle, which contains the longest bench in the world--200 meters!

The Parc and its Plaza and marketplace are incredible, but the Sagrada Familia surpasses it all. Gaudi worked 43 years on that church, putting all his creative energy into building a house to glorify God. After learning about the work Gaudi put in, I knew the Sagrada Familia would be pretty cool. However I was COMPLETELY unprepared for the absolute magnificence of the church.

It rises up from the ground in detailed towers that drive the eye crazy. Every inch of the church is busy with delicate carvings and statues gasping for breath. You could literally stand in front of the church for HOURS and never see it all. I cannot even begin to fathom having a vision for something that incredible, much less trying to build it!

At first glance, the Sagrada Familia actually looks like a dink castle. You probably don't know what that is, and that's NOT because you haven't traveled to Spain. The term "dink" is entirely American, created by my mother to describe the castles you make at the beach by dripping wet sand. Like THIS {<--click}. Of course, when you look closer you can see the story of Jesus, scene by scene, across the church.

Inside the Sagrada Familia is EVERY BIT as breath-taking as the outside, but in a different way. Where the outside is humbling and ornate, the inside is all cool and clean and calm. From the outside, the church felt like the greatest building I'd ever seen. From the inside, it felt like the greatest building the world will ever see.

Gaudi modeled the inside after of a forest. Huge, marble "trees" grow up from the floor before spreading into branches that hold up the mighty ceiling. Stained glass windows cry out with colors brighter and bolder and more beautiful than colors anywhere else. Smooth, winding stairs and glorious altars quietly proclaim God in very real ways. The Sagrada Familia felt like God.

It FELT like God.

Gaudi must have had a tremendously strong, real, beautiful relationship with the Lord because it flowed into his work. Every stone sings God's praises, the very air in the church feels charged with the Holy Spirit.

As I stood in the church, trying to breath it all in and knowing it was impossible, the tour guide told us about the religion in modern-day Spain. Spain used to be a very religious country, he said, but it isn't so much anymore. When the Sagrada Familia is finally completed {which won't be for another fifteen to twenty years!}, it will probably be used more as a museum than a church.

For some reason, that hit me really hard. For a shocking moment, my heart felt broken. How sad! How terribly, deeply sad. Gaudi must be rolling over in his grave, I thought. Something so beautiful, so purposeful, can only be meant for God.

I know that's just a simple sentence, but it's the one that played over and over in my head as we explored the church. Something so beautiful, so purposeful, can only be meant for God. It kept hitting me over and over and I finally began to understand something my teachers have told me for years:

The very best artists were always Christians. It's almost like artists who have a special relationship with the Creator get a special peek into His mind. When you make something beautiful for God, you reach a level that can never be reached when you create for anyone else.

Even thought Italy was my favorite country, I think my biggest takeaway from my trip was the Sagrada Familia in Spain. It literally took my breath away; it literally made me speechless. I have never, EVER seen anything like it before. It's greater than anything I could ever imagine. I think it's greater than anything ANYONE could ever imagine--without God.

Gaudi no doubt had something special, and that something was God. I think we as Christians should strive to be like Gaudi in that respect: he took his talent, gave it to God, and got it back a thousand times over, creating something that should exceed human ability in every respect.

Exodus 35:31-32: "and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze..."

Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men..."


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