Recently we had a paint night at our church for the ladies - young and old. It was a simple but beautiful picture of a sunflower with a ladybug crawling on it. People ranged across the board in their confidence about painting something that looked like the one the teacher was doing. When we first started everyone was paying attention and trying to copy every move the artist in front of us was doing. Gradually, as we all got more comfortable, we got more bold in our choices - colors, design, patterns, shades, and textures were all different. By the end of the night we had 12 pieces that you could tell were the same picture, but had very different takes on it. It was beautiful and we all marveled at the way so many different things came from one original idea.
I like to think that this was the idea God had when he created us. As I looked around that room I knew that I was surrounded by women who were made in the image of Him. Beautiful, creative, unique personalities - starting with a core of him but taking on the special, individual things about each person that makes each canvas different at the end. We talked before we painted about how each of us are artistic and creative in some way because we are created in his image and he is the ultimate artist. What was going through God's mind as he created me? A canvas of bold colors - no muted tones for this girl! Probably more of the impressionist style painting - a bit of reality but a lot more of the dreaming and imagination. Some flair in the brush strokes, but definitely not even and controlled. And definitely places with imperfections - big, glaring ones.
As I was painting I felt like it was going well until I got to the middle of the sunflower - the place with all the seeds. I had used a bunch of color and some obvious brush strokes rather than blending my background, and I wanted the seeds to have the same style. But everything I tried kept frustrating me. I would put my brush down, walk around the room and see other's people's painting, get some ideas, and head back to try something new. Add some color? No - it's too orange now. Use a different brush? No, too speckled looking. I spent the majority of my paint time on that middle until I felt that it worked with the rest of the painting and I was happy with it.
Obviously God didn't improvise when he was creating us, and he doesn't try random techniques to make us more beautiful. He has a plan and purpose. Each of his brush strokes are intentional to the final product. But sometimes we get in the way of his plan, and God allows us to splash a color on the canvas that was not what he would have wanted for us. Sometimes when we insist on being the artist rather than the art he allows us to do just that for a time. He is not surprised by it, but he is still saddened that his masterpiece has these flaws that did not have to be there.
There have been times when I have been trying to paint, or write, or sculpt, or bake, or garden - when I've done something creative and artistic - but I've reached a point where I am so frustrated or disgusted by the result that I have given up on it. Into the garbage - there's no redeeming that one. However God, being the skilled craftsman that he is, doesn't trash the canvas or start all over again with a better, newer one. That is not how he works, and I am so thankful for that.
All the times that I have bumped the Artist's hands and insisted on using a color or brush that I just knew was correct but it turned out to be a mistake, he has taken those blemishes and made them beautiful. He is filling in the dark spots and streaks through the picture and creating an even richer, deeper canvas of colors and beauty than I could have imagined.
Are you ready to hand the brush back to the painter? Because you will marvel at the beauty that comes from the hands of the master.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.