What the Heck?


Last summer while in Vienna, my husband and I went to the Belvedere Museum. Off to one side, I spotted a room that immediately sparked my interest. I couldn’t help being drawn into this round room that held 60 or so busts by sculptor Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Each bust’s facial expression looked as if they had just bit into a lemon. What the heck?

Messerschmidt spent his final years studying the grimacing face but no one really knows why. Some speculate the busts were an expression of the artist’s struggle with himself, or the result of an affliction he may have suffered, or an attempt to perfect his skill as a sculptor. German author Friederichs Nicolai visited Messerschmidt and reported that Messerschmidt devised a series of pinches he administered to his lower rib and observed the resulting facial expression in a mirror.

I don’t have any deep insight into life or faith through these strange works of art, except to say that I pray that the new year leaves you with much more pleasing expressions of your face. I hope your new year has started out on the right foot for you and your loved ones. As a gift to you, I want to share this devotion from Oswald Chamber’s book, “My Utmost for His Highest.” It spoke to my heart and I pray you may find in it the same promise, hope and grace that I did.


You shall not go out with haste …for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. -Isaiah 52:12

Security from Yesterday. “…God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). At the end of the year we turn with eagerness to all that God has for the future, and yet anxiety is apt to arise when we remember our yesterdays. Our present enjoyment of God’s grace tends to be lessened by the memory of yesterday’s sins and blunders. But God is the God of our yesterdays, and he allows the memory of them to turn the past into a ministry of spiritual growth for our future. God reminds us of the past to protect us from a very shallow security in the present.

Security for Tomorrow. “…the Lord will go before you….” This is a gracious revelation— that God will send his forces out where we have failed to do so. He will keep watch so that we will not be tripped up again by the same failures, as would undoubtedly happen if he were not our “rear guard.” And God’s hand reaches back to the past, settling all the claims against our conscience.

Security for Today. “You shall not go out with haste….” As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness. But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us. Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.


Being Human connection: Leave the broken, irreversible past in his hands, and step out into the invincible future with him. Happy New Year.

Featured image: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, Character Heads, 1771-1783, Belvedere Museum, Vienna