I tried to like the Getty. I really did.
The Getty Museum is a world-famous art museum perched high above the 405 Freeway in Los Angeles. It contains priceless paintings and sculptures, and people come from all over the world to visit.
You can’t live in Los Angeles very long before someone says, “Have you been to the Getty?”
I have good friends who can’t get enough of that type of art. Debra is a major patron of the art community in Phoenix. Jenni tells of using high-quality photo books of those masterpieces with her kids, then sharing their excitement when they visit a museum to see them in person. Another friend (unnamed) sneaks away from work just to visit art museums.
“You just have to see it,” people would say.
It’s not that I don’t like art museums. I just don’t have an emotional response to what I see. I’ve even stood in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. I saw people in tears because they were so moved.
I was impressed at being there, but I wasn’t moved.
And I felt guilty because of it.
I’ve always wanted to appreciate fine art. But I’ve never felt the emotion that so many people describe.
So when my sister and her husband were visiting, they wanted to visit the Getty. I had heard that the building cost a billion dollars to build, so I wanted to see what made it so valuable.
We drove up there on a Saturday. Once inside, she led the charge. We followed her from gallery to gallery, trying to keep up and listening to her commentary on everything she saw. The further we went, the more excited she became.
Bless her heart – it was so much fun to watch her excitement.
But I didn’t share it.
We had a great day being together, and I learned a ton from her. But I still felt guilty because I seemed to be missing the “masterpiece” gene. I resigned myself to living a life devoid of culture.
A few weeks later, a large box was delivered to my door. I was expecting it, because it comes every year.
Inside were a couple dozen new books.
For the past 25 years or so, I’ve been one of the judges for the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s Christian Book Awards. It’s the most prestigious award given to the top books in that category, and I’ve been privileged to participate. Every year they send me a shipment, and I have the chance to vote on the best of the best.
So I lined them up on a shelf. Each morning, I’d settle in as the sun was rising with a cup of coffee – and read a couple of chapters.
What a great way to start the day!
On my first day of reading, I picked up a book called Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer
from an author I didn’t recognize named Micha Boyett. I turned to the back cover for context:
“. . . she’s passionate about monasticism and ancient Christian spiritual practices and how they inform the contemporary life of faith . . .”
I wasn’t hopeful, and it sounded stuffy. I took another sip of coffee and started reading.
That’s when it happened: her writing caught my heart.
Just reading her first few paragraphs sucked me into her world. Somehow, I wasn’t reading any more. I was there.
I know that different people are impacted by different books at different times. Maybe that was my time. But I felt the sheer joy of reading words that had been so well-crafted.
Was it the best book ever written? Of course not. But on that day (and the days that followed), Micha took my on a journey of her life as a wife and mom in San Francisco. She made me feel the fog and taste the bagels and hear the swings creaking on the public playground. She just put the words together in a way that captured my emotions throughout the book.
From my perspective, I was reading . . . a masterpiece.
I was having the emotional experience that eluded me at the Getty. It came as ink on paper rather than oil on canvas, but it was still the expression of an artist.
Great painters and great writers both use their tools of expression, and they both touch the heart.
They both create masterpieces.
Here’s what I discovered: Books are my Getty.
I have art-loving friends who can’t get excited about books. I have author friends who can’t get excited about paintings.
We’re both impacted by a masterpiece.
I can’t wait to take my sister to a bookstore for the day . . .
What’s your Getty? Share in the comments (below) . . .