Leonardo da Vinci began painting The Last Supper on the wall of a monastery in northern Italy in 1495, but it took him three years to finish. Some days he’d arrive early, climb the scaffolding, stare at the wall for hours, and then go home having not even lifted his brush.
As one might expect, this apparent lack of progress was frustrating to both the caretaker of the church and the one who had commissioned the painting. They fretted that the work might never be finished.
But I think it was during the days when da Vinci failed to paint a single stroke that some of his best work was being done. The masterpiece was being shaped in his mind before it was brought to life by his brush.
As an artist, every now and then I’m able to sit down and write a script or articulate an idea in a frenzy of creative energy. That usually only happens after I’ve done the kind of work that doesn’t look anything like work—after I’ve taken some time to stare at the wall.
Sometimes stillness is what’s required for us to see what we really want. To know what’s really going on. To go one layer deeper than our drive-by lives allow.
I’ve been working on a creative piece centered on The Last Supper. Throughout the process I’ve wondered: Could da Vinci have made his masterpiece if he’d filled every moment with frantic brushstrokes?
I doubt it.
Psalm 37:7 tells us:
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
God often begins by shaping masterpieces in our minds before he brings them to life in our lives. I wonder what work might be done, dreams dreamed, and masterpieces made if we were willing to be still now and then.