Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Works of Art - How God Invites Us to Create

The blank canvas--a white piece of construction paper--was set before the artist. Commissioned to create a masterpiece, he scanned the palette of colors. Dipping his paint brush into the bowl of water, he slowly swirled it around in the colors until the brush had soaked up a good deal of paint. Then the artist went to work, painting broad strokes across the stark canvas, meticulously sweeping the brush back and forth with a growing passion.

The cycle continued. Dip in the water. Swirl in the color. Spread paint onto the canvas. Repeat. As the colors blended together, the artist made a sudden and radical decision. With the paint still fresh, he flipped the entire canvas over, exposing the unmarked underside. Without missing a beat, the artist swept a new stroke of paint onto the clear canvas and began afresh.

I stood over the artist's shoulder, being careful not to disturb his work while too curious to keep a distance. "How is the painting going?" I inquired.

"I'm not finished, Daddy," responded the artist. More dips. More swirls. More strokes. Eventually, the artist became distracted and decided to take a step back from his work in order to play with trucks in his sandbox.

I held up the final product. It was a swirling mass of brushstrokes, the colors bleeding together and forming a sort of blackish-brown on the paper. He had chosen to mix all the colors at once and dip them into the tiny bowl of water--"I want to color the water"--then slathered it onto the construction paper.

Will this abstract masterpiece end up in a Parisian museum for the world to see? Probably not. But I couldn't be more proud. See, this particular artist is my son, my child, my beloved. The artwork reflects the artist--imperfect and unfinished, yet cherished and blessed.

Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God's handiwork; the NLT says that we are God's masterpiece. The language here is about artistry. We are the images of God, a very work of divine art. Yet we aren't stationary pieces placed in a museum. The verse continues: he has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. 

We are both art and artists, both the created and creators. Our works of art may not always be perfect, but God is a good Father and loves us dearly. I once heard Donald Miller talk about how God is fathering us. He gave the example of a family who sat down for the dinner and the father told everyone specifically what to do--when to take bites, how much salt to put on their food, etc. Then the father goes on to tell the family--both wife and kids--when to go to bed, when to wake up, where to go to college, who to marry, etc. He said that this kind of family sounds dysfunctional, that the father sounds like a control freak. Yet a lot of people seem to believe God is like this and they are trying to discern and perform according to His all-controlling will.

Miller went on to say that if God is fathering us, then He is trying to help us discover what is good and beautiful and true. It's like God sets a big sheet of butcher paper before us, gives us a box of crayons, and says "go." He will teach and guide what is right and wrong, what is considered beautiful and what is profane. Instead of creating out of fear and insecurity--I have to get this art just right so my Dad will love me--God invites us to create from security in His love and grace. As God's children, we are invited to create a world that reflects God's heart--to do acts of justice, to befriend and love our neighbors, to adopt orphans, and to extend grace and reconciliation to the brokenhearted.

When I look at my son's work of art, I am filled with a sense of joy. He is dreaming and creating and imagining and expressing, and I couldn't be more proud of my child. I'm sure our heavenly Father feels the same.

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