In 1884, the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis. Over time, his fingers twisted and became deformed, causing severe pain. But this did not deter him from his passion for painting. In fact, he modified his brushes to accommodate his condition, even having someone place the brush between his clenched fingers so that he could continue to paint. When asked why he persisted in spite of the pain, he simply remarked, “The pain passes, but the beauty remains.”
Renoir’s unyielding commitment to his art offers a poignant reflection on the teachings of Matthew 19:3-12. In this passage, Jesus addresses the Pharisees’ challenging questions on marriage and divorce. At a time when divorce was permitted under specific conditions in Jewish law, Jesus elevated the sanctity of marital union, emphasizing its divine nature and the inherent commitment.
While the immediate context deals with marriage, the deeper message challenges conventional wisdom on the value and nature of commitment in our relationships. In a world where impermanence and change are often celebrated, Jesus invites us to recognize the power and beauty of steadfast dedication. Renoir’s commitment to his art, even in the face of debilitating pain, mirrors the call to honor our commitments, not because it’s always comfortable or convenient, but because of the deeper beauty and purpose they hold.
The text may seem rigid to some, especially where Jesus acknowledges that not everyone can accept and embrace the idea. But isn’t life like that? Some commitments are challenging, demanding, and even painful. Yet, like Renoir’s artistry, the beauty that emerges from unwavering dedication can be deeply transformative.
One of the prominent life challenges many face is the quest for immediate satisfaction and ease, often leading to transitory relationships, jobs, and pursuits. This “throwaway culture” can lead to a deep sense of dissatisfaction and a lack of purpose. When we dodge commitments or abandon them at the first sign of discomfort, we rob ourselves of the profound growth that comes from perseverance.
The invitation from Matthew 19:3-12 extends beyond marital relationships. It’s a call to recognize the profound beauty in genuine commitment, challenging the ephemeral nature of our contemporary culture. As Renoir so aptly expressed, the temporary pain or discomfort of steadfast dedication is overshadowed by the lasting beauty it produces. In a world that often seeks the easiest route, may we find the courage to choose the path of commitment, where true beauty and depth reside.