I was in Rome and I was sitting on a wooden bench in the Sistine Chapel looking up at Michelangelo’s masterpiece clothing the ceiling and walls in all its magnificence. And my only thought was that this place was somehow smaller and darker than I had imagined.
When you read about the Sistine Chapel in history books, you imagine it as a glorious undertaking. You picture Michelangelo lying on his back painting the finger of God while light streams in from windows encasing beautiful vistas all around – a far cry from the reality of the dark and stuffy space in which he spent several years of his life.
Two months of saving and working odd jobs, a couple of very long train rides, and several days of surviving on Clif bars and coffee had brought me here at last along with the thousands of other people just like me who had traveled for miles to this crowded little chapel.
And as I sat there I thought how much of our lives we spend looking for somewhere beautiful or splendid in which to create our masterpiece, waiting for the right time, searching for the dream, the title or position, or some place worthy of our life’s work. But in reality it’s not about the beautiful place at all. It’s about taking dark and sometimes simple or familiar places like this chapel and making them beautiful.
And that was the moment.
That was the moment I was cured of my wanderlust, that sort of restlessness that had tugged at my heart for as long as I can remember, that urge to see the world, to travel to places you only read about in books. I thought it was only normal, but my brother tells me it definitely is not. Whatever the case, it has been my condition for as long as I can remember. But here in Italy, in the Sistine Chapel, I sighed and I knew it was finished. I suppose there will always be a part of me that enjoys seeing someplace new. And even one day when I settle at last in the USA, I am sure I will still want to explore new places every now and then. But 21 countries in 25 years is enough. I think I’ve seen as much of the world as I’d like to, and in all this wandering I’ve finally realized, to quote Anne of Green Gables, that “It’s not what the world holds for you. It’s what you bring to it.”
I don’t know where you are right now, dear reader, or what you are working on but whatever it is, from a major corporation to a child’s heart, when you get itchy feet and start to wonder whether it is worth the effort, whether your work is achieving anything at all, whether there isn’t someplace better or something bigger, I hope you will remember that wherever God has you it’s never too small or too simple a place to paint your Sistine Chapel. The world is waiting for it.