What is Man that Thou art Mindful of Him?
by Felicia Ong, January, 2001
One afternoon in autumn 1998, I walked into the Etobicoke City Hall (in West Toronto, Ontario, Canada) to pay some bills. It has an elegant corridor with windows on one side. The wall on the other side houses artwork by local amateur artists. As I headed to the payment counter, a large painting of a face caught my eye.
“I’ll come back for a closer look,” I told myself. So, after settling the bill, I walked back down that corridor, and as I approached it, I realized why it had drawn me. It was somehow vaguely familiar. Ah! It reminded me of the image on the shroud of Turin. As you may know, the shroud of Turin was first thought to be the burial covering of Christ. However, studies have since shown that it is unlikely to be that old to be Jesus’. Nonetheless, the image is still so familiarly connected with the suffering and death of Jesus, that one cannot help but be reminded of Him.
It was the only painting that had an explanatory note by its artist, Norman Hew-Shue. Hew-Shue. What an unusual name! And I wondered how it would be pronounced. Just as I had expected, the artist’s note explained that he’d used the details of the shroud of Turin, depicting it as the Lord’s face, and superimposed it upon our vast universe. Thus, the painting was titled, “When I Consider Thy Heavens”, a line from Psalm 8:3. The distinct crease in the shroud he depicted as the Milky Way, our home galaxy. Did you know that it is only one of the 100 billion galaxies in the universe?! And that our Sun, which sits by a window in the Milky Way, is just one of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy?!
On its left, there is a little detail with immense significance. There we find another galaxy being sucked into a black hole. Black holes are the most powerful forces in the natural universe. Densities may reach millions of tons per cubic inch. Nothing approaches a black hole without disappearing into oblivion. Yet the artist depicts some strands of the Lord’s hair lying completely unaffected over the black hole.
All this I gathered from the artist’s explanation. I realized it was his meditation on Psalm 8. I sat down across from it and meditated upon Jesus, our Lord and Savior. A time of quiet - right there - with God! I left the place filled in my spirit. I couldn’t wait to tell Tim, my husband, all about it, and to show it to him.
The next day, Daniel, a brother in Christ from Toronto Christian Disciples Church, was visiting, so the three of us went to see it together. We were all inspired by it. I daydreamed about getting in touch with the artist. Perhaps we could meet with him, and have a time of fellowship with him? Wishful thinking, I chided myself. Anyway, what would I say to him if I met him? “Errr.... Your painting is awe-inspiring, but I can’t afford to buy it. Just wanted to say, “Hi!” and “Thank you!”
Autumn became winter, and soon it was February 1999, nearing the time for me to leave Toronto for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. My last two weeks were filled with sad-but-special farewell get-togethers. Farewells are so draining on the soul, aren’t they? One Friday I was at such a party. It was hosted by Auntie Joy from our Bible Study Group in Scarborough. She had also invited her long-time family friends, many of whom I met for the first time there. Part way through the evening one of the guests began speaking about walking home to get a video he had made, and he wanted to show it to us. A strange feeling began to bubble inside of me when he mentioned this. And this feeling grew inside me, stronger and ever stranger, and then suddenly, it all clicked! The fact that his name was Norman had not struck me at all earlier. But now it was all falling into place: I had been invited to the same party as Norman Hew-Shue! And even before he told us all about the video, I just knew it was going to be about that painting! How amazing is our Lord!
Norman Hew-Shue lives in Scarborough, right on the east end of Toronto. The Scarborough City Hall had not accepted his painting for display because it deemed it too controversial, or too religious, I can’t remember exactly why now. But that’s how it ended up being on display way over in the west, in Etobicoke, where I lived.
What a wonderful “coincidence”! What a big encouragement from the Lord to us! From it, I was once again assured of two amazing characteristics of our Lord Jesus. The first is His omniscience in orchestrating all this. Who but God is capable of master-minding all these details - me paying the bill, which city hall, and the right party for me to go to at the right time? But secondly, and even more beautiful, His utter graciousness. Who am I that He should concern Himself to encourage me - this speck of dust from the perspective of His vast universe? Why ever would the farewell-sadnesses of little Felicia move such a big and mighty God? Norman Hew-Shue himself notes that Psalm 8 continues with v4, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” This was precisely the sentiment of the moment!
Norman works in a hospital. He shared with me that if he were to simply go through the routine of turning up for work, returning home to his family, and then turning up for work again the next day and the next and the next, life to him would be totally meaningless. What gives meaning to life is to know the Creator of the Universe, and to worship Him with all our heart.
I do thank the Lord for this wonderful experience of His graciousness in my time of need. May I live to serve Him with all my heart wherever I am on this globe!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church