by Emily Conrad
I pulled out my acrylic paints last week to capture the trails we hiked in early October. Before I started, I looked at one of my photos from the trip to refresh myself on the colorful leaves, the occasional spot of sunshine, and the leaf-dotted pathways. Feeling prepared, I turned to the canvas.
After my first couple of sessions, the colors on my canvas looked too dark and reddish while the number of trees I was trying to load into the scene rendered it overwhelming.
Where had I gone wrong?
I’d left the picture behind. I’d assumed I knew well enough what a forest looks like–I’ve hike through so many! I was just there! I just looked at a picture! So, I blindly trusted my experience to carry me through.
That didn’t work well with my painting, and it doesn’t work well in our faith.
Have you ever seen an artist copying a masterwork in a museum? Or perhaps a painter striving to capture a landscape? They send glances back to the original every couple of seconds.
Even as a child, dabbling in art, I knew the importance of observing an original. I kept the picture I was imitating right next to my paper and constantly checked my work against the model. In fact, as I was first learning to draw horses, I laid my paper over the picture and traced the outline of the animal.
As Christians, we’re called to live as Christ lived. He is the original, and we run into trouble if we don’t take the artist’s approach by looking back to Him constantly.
As I recently read in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.”
This makes perfect sense. If I can’t remember an accurate mental picture of a forest scene—if I forget the color of tree trunks—how will I ever keep in mind all I’ve heard about the eternal God and His ways with His people unless I constantly refresh my memory?
To copy Christ and live as He would have us live, we’re wise to keep God’s word close. To read it daily. To engage in discussion with other believers. To read writings by Christians, classic and contemporary. To even make sure we follow social media accounts that will help point us to the original, to Jesus.
In this way, we can keep the “picture” of God before us, maintaining our faith before it goes astray so that we will be better able to copy Christ as we live out our lives.
When we don’t, we run into the kind of trouble I ran into with my painting.
But even then, there is hope.
When I finally compared my work to the picture and the trees around my neighborhood, I learned I’d made basic mistakes. The majority of trunks are gray with just a hint of brown, not the warm, reddish brown I’d used. And in the photo I was using for my inspiration, not much beyond the initial layer of forest on either side of the path was visible—all the trees I was trying to layer in the background wouldn’t make the picture.
Thankfully, the paint is forgiving. I can layer more paint over the old, and get the work back on track.
Likewise, God is patient and forgiving. When He reveals to us ways our lives don’t match up with His will, it’s never to late to turn, to ask the Master Creator to give us a clean canvas (heart) once again, and to fix our eyes back on the One we seek to emulate.
Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Keep thinking about things above, not things on the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3, NET
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Woman painting cliff and canvas photos by Jade Stephens on Unsplash
Brushes on palette photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash
Great perspective, Emily! Oh so thankful God is as forgiving as our canvas. Since I choose to paint with words (paint and brush intimidate me) I can relate in very similar ways to the use of color, assuming I've got it right when that's not always the case.
That's true–the same idea carries over into writing, too. So grateful for God's leading in our stories, and the way He can redeem even our mistakes.
Great imagery, Emily. This really blessed my heart!
Thanks so much for reading!