Nick S. Boone

NickBoone  I’ve never visited the Sistine Chapel; however, I have taken a couple of virtual tours via (  Even on a virtual tour, the chapel is impressive.  Goethe’s comment comes to mind: “Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.”

I love this quote, and I love that it was made in light of the Sistine Chapel–a testament, in itself, not to just what man can achieve, but what man achieves in relationship with God, as the central scene of God’s reaching towards Adam suggests.

But why strive to build those great Cathedrals, why strive towards making beauty?  God’s existence seems to be much in doubt these days, but the existence of the works of art like the Sistine Chapel or any of the great cathedrals sweeps away much of the doubt about God.  Why would man strive to achieve so much if it is not for that “divine and supernatural light” that penetrates the mind and encourages the spirit.  I woke up the other day, feeling a little under the weather, and as I was taking my morning shower, I said to myself, “I feel so bad.”  Then I realized what I said, and corrected that statement with, “I’m alive!”  And it was one of those moments of clarity wherein I ecstatically understood the miracle that is my own life, mundane as it may be.  That I am alive–it is an amazing thought.  And I realized in that moment, too, that such a thought only made sense to me through my relationship with God.  That by some force so much greater than myself, I am here, living.  And that by some force greater than myself, I will cease from living on this earth.  That life itself is a blessing from God, and that it ought to be cherished and protected by all means–these ideas made sense to me in that moment only in response to “divine and supernatural light.”

One problem we have in realizing these truths, however, is that we live in a world of discourse, from media of all kinds, that tells a story about ourselves as human beings that is not so inspiring.  The culturally sanctioned ways of speaking about human behavior are bluntly scientific, sociological–in short, materialistic.  We can’t speak of salvation, heaven, sin, or hell in today’s media.  We can’t speak much about what we are capable of through the strength of the Lord.  Instead, we are made to believe that we are basically hunks of flesh, brute beasts, with little control over our appetites.  McDonald’s is responsible for my being overweight, such and such company or such and such politician or such and such person is to blame for my shortcomings.  We make excuses for ourselves because we’ve been trained to think that we can’t help ourselves.  We’re merely flesh and bones and we respond, naturally, scientifically, to particular stimuli.  We can’t help ourselves, and, more importantly, we have no God to help us help ourselves.

Most of us aren’t Michaelangelos, or Goethes, or Shakespeares; most of us aren’t even artists at all.  However, we all can be inspired, and produce something inspiring if we open ourselves up to the possibility that God is part of this great life of ours, that he reaches toward us to invigorate us, however lax or uninspired we may feel at any given time (see Adam in the Sistine Chapel painting).

Recently, my mother related this story to me, which shows what any of us are capable of.  My mother’s friend, Cindy, who was also the mother of one of my old friends from high school, was dying of cancer.  As my mother visited with her in the hospital, Cindy was so weak she could barely talk audibly.  She tried to sit up to greet my mother, but mother cautioned her not to worry about it and just to rest.  They talked mainly about how poorly Cindy was doing, and various doctors’ prognoses, and etc.  After a short while, my mother arose to leave, seeing how difficult it was for this woman just to communicate a few sentences.  Then, as my mother was at the door about to exit the room, Cindy sat herself up, and said, as loudly as she could, “Wait!  How’s Nick doing?”  Mother turned and visited briefly with her again, telling her that I was doing well, and that my kids were doing well, etc.  And as she exited and walked down the hospital corridors she could barely choke back tears.

She had just witnessed heroic effort–an effort, perhaps, worthy of Michaelangelo.  In a dark place, Cindy, through the force of her will, pushed through the darkness and allowed the light of God to show.  That “divine and supernatural light” showed my mother how one can throw off all that hinders us from concern for others, from all the temptations to be selfish.  Her act of will was inspired by the Lord himself as she had integrated into her life his commandments on how to treat others and how to love your neighbor as yourself.  That, for my mother, was a Sistine Chapel experience.  And, for me, hearing it told to me, it was quite like one of those virtual tours of the Sistine Chapel.  I am still inspired, encouraged by the story immensely because it shows what we as human beings inspired by “divine and supernatural light” can do.  We can, with God in view, overcome all that hinders us–even the weaknesses of our physical bodies.  We can overcome the world.

And when Cindy died a few days later, I believe the Lord lifted her up out of her bed.


              Nick is the grandson of Buford and Maude Smith and teaches at Harding University.