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A Chance Encounter with ‘The Painter of Light’

How a mistake can lead to something wonderful, like the paintings of Turner.

The mistake that led to a miracle of light.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have you ever made a mistake that God somehow used to bring about something wonderful?

That’s what happened to me this past March. One morning, I took the subway uptown to Columbia University to interview Dr. Lisa Miller, a leading expert on childhood and spirituality. (Stay tuned for our Q&A with her coming soon to Mysterious Ways magazine!)

On my way back from the interview, I hopped on the local train at the 116th street subway station. I planned on taking an express train at 96th street. Only, I missed the express at 96th and had to get back on the local. I was so frustrated with myself. (Missing an express train in New York City is like opening a box of doughnuts in the kitchen at work only to discover all the glazed ones are gone!)

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Needless to say, the local was moving like molasses. At 79th street, the train stopped. I looked up. And that’s when I saw it, through the window of the train–a poster on the opposite wall of the station, on the other side of the tracks. It was advertising a J.M.W. Turner exhibit at the Frick Collection in New York City.

I couldn’t believe it. J.M.W. Turner is one of my favorite painters of all time! He’s known as “the painter of light” for the incredible way light shines through in his oil and watercolor paintings. I have postcards of his paintings hanging above my desks at home and at work. I had no idea he had a special exhibit in New York City, though.

If I hadn’t missed that express train, I would’ve never known. In fact, I never saw another poster advertising the exhibit anywhere else in New York City.

Last weekend, I finally made it to the Frick to view the exhibit. I stood in front of one of Turner’s unfinished paintings, The Harbour of Brest, completely wowed…and thankful for the mistake that led me there. 

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