Does God wear white gloves?
During the winter months, we have watched more TV than usual. We have been particularly involved with programmes on various aspects of British history - Queen Victoria’s children, the Suffragettes, the Tudors. Over the last month or so, we have been fascinated by a series exploring the pictures and other memorabilia in the Royal Collection. All these series involve a lot of interviews with curators of various museums and galleries. Their approaches to their work are impressive.
We are amazed at the extraordinary lengths to which they go to conserve their collections. We are well-trained observers now and we get very fidgety in our armchairs when a presenter fails to don soft white gloves especially when handling an ancient manuscript or fragile ornament!
The detailed knowledge of presenters about the precious objects in their care is remarkable. They have obviously spent hours just looking at them, thinking about their treasure’s meaning and value and clearly getting increasingly excited about what is in their care. Their passion is visible and their involvement in the life of these objects and the stories which surround them is contagious.
Curacy of museums and care of souls (often described as the ‘cure’ of souls) are closely related. As Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul, says, ‘We can’t care for the soul unless we are familiar with its ways’. Moore talks about the importance of ‘observance’, keeping an eye on and respecting both our own souls and the souls of those for whom we care.
But more than observation is necessary. The curators and conservators in museums sometimes need to use not white gloves but appropriate cleaning products to dust off dirt and grime acquired through months or years of neglect. Now and then, they need x-rays to identify the genuine article underneath the accretions of the ages. Similarly care of souls – both our own and those of others -means more than handling with white gloves. Sometimes it means observing carefully until we see more clearly and learn to love and forgive the true humanity in ourselves and those for whom we care.
This week, as many in both the Christian world (and, increasingly these days in the secular world) begin to celebrate Lent by giving up self-indulgence of some kind, perhaps God is calling us to something different.
Maybe we are called to allow the Divine Curator to look lovingly into our hearts and ask us who we really are as He cleans off the dust and grime of our pretence. Like the best museum curators, maybe He wants to polish us up and make us more accessible to the public so that we can tell our story with more authenticity.