In December, I attended an art show of a new friend*. His lakeside gallery was filled with beautiful watercolors, silk banners, stone lithographs and more. In a small sun-filled corner was his latest commissioned project currently in progress. Around the easel were photos of the subject and all the requisite tools of an artist: containers of paint, brushes, rags, drop cloth, etc. In the center of it all the client’s requested seascape was forming on an oversized canvas. Brushstrokes had created the silhouettes of cliffs, trees, the horizon, and rock formations. But to my surprise, it was all done in red paint. Not what I expected. He explained this was a special technique and when he later applied the familiar hues of sand, water, and sky, the red base underneath would bring warmth to the entire composition. Layers would also be added in some areas that needed intensity in their depth. The idea completely intrigued me – setting down a foundation to make what was later placed over it feel warmer and stronger.
For weeks afterward I thought about it and I found myself comparing the painting to my life as I face challenging times. Do hard times just hit me free and clear? Do I just hold my breath hoping it’s not too destructive this time? Or have I laid a foundation that lessens the impact of these challenges, making them not quite so dark and damaging but allows warmth and strength to seep through?
When I freely give control of the purpose and design of my life to God, I also take the responsibility to follow and keep up with Him as He moves. I need to create a base that helps me hold onto Him as He adds to and subtracts from my life, or when He takes me in a direction I haven’t anticipated and don’t understand. That base layer – my red paint – shows through and helps me stand firm. That layer is more than just having a positive attitude or reciting affirmations. I must deliberately lay down thick, red brushstrokes of hope and grace. Hope that comes from remembering His faithfulness to me in the past and trusting He will continue to do good things now and in the future. Grace that reminds me that I don’t have to be perfect and I am not relying on my own abilities to get everything right.
When I intentionally build towards His purpose for my life and I equip myself with hope and grace, I can pursue it with a sense of warmth and strength, even when my life is not picture perfect.
*Steve Scheibe is an accomplished and awarded artist with over two decades of professional art experience. On his website, visibleinvisible, he has posted “An Oil Painting in Progress” which follows the development of this project. While you’re there, please browse through the rest of his site and enjoy the other excellent artwork Steve has produced.