© 2014 Lynn Abbott
People often ask me where artists get inspiration for their paintings. I can’t answer for others, but I know that I often find glimmers of God’s grace in the world around me. Of course, my life doesn’t always lend itself to painting “en plein air,” and so a camera becomes a necessity.
However, I certainly don’t claim to be a photographer. In fact, if pressed, I sheepishly admit that as of yet, I know very little about my extraordinary digital, Canon Rebel T3i. For this reason, even though I snap photos during my travels, I am invariably disappointed with the outcome of my efforts.
Most of the time, my photographs only shadow the real thing. Even so, as an artist, I certainly have vision for the painting that a poor photo can become. I find that even the sloppiest of camera work may serve as an artistic “jumping off point,” the seed for a composition I wish to explore. Experience has taught me that with brush, I can create color, texture and elements that communicate both my heart and vision.
More often than not, the starting point isn’t grand or glorious. It is quite small, insignificant, mundane, gray, or even lackluster. Yet, I can see beyond the less than ideal image. And in such cases, the transformation especially brings me delight…
I think Abba must feel the same way about my life.
While God patiently shapes my days, I can see nothing of any profound significance, color or vibrancy in me. The longer I journey in this world the more it seems I gather dust from the path. Like Schultz’ classic character, Pigpen, the remnants of the world trail all of us. Indeed, the storm clouds of Tom Wilson’s Ziggy or Disney’s Eeyore seem to follow us from place to place. And I wonder, how can anything beautiful come from such?
Just as Moses must have regretted his choices while tending sheep in a desert far from the celebrated courts of Pharoah, I sometimes ponder the promise of my youth that has long ago been spent: I reflect upon my ill choices, life’s griefs and gray days. Surely, I think, I may have started well, but the intervening events obviously have disqualified the image as inspiration for any of the Master’s significant creations. . .
Or have they? Scripture reveals a God who does not see as humanity sees. Fortunately for me, He sees beyond my imperfections to the beautiful image that He has planned for me.
Our Savior, in fact, delights in painting masterpieces from lives that seem ill-suited to inspire. If we read without presuppositions, it becomes clear that the broken down, the dusty, the gray, the lackluster, and the insignificant populate the genealogy of Christ and fill the pages of Biblical history with vibrant color.
The liar Jacob, the braggart Joseph, the foreigner Ruth, the prostitute Rahab, the shepherd boy David, the laboring fisherman Peter, the embittered Saul of Tarsus, and the wash-out John Mark– all became a part of God’s magnificent composition. Some found their way into the genealogy of Christ; others simply testified or wrote of Him. But God gloried in each, confounding the wisdom of this world by choosing the seemingly foolish.
In light of this, I recall the Gospel’s description of a more Mediterranean hillside many years ago where two small fish and a little bread fed 5000 men. And so it is that I bring to Him my seemingly insignificant, brown paper, lunch bag. After all, Abba glories in painting Masterpieces from the mundane.
“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose,” Philippians 2:13 (NIV)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…'” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world…” Matthew 5:14 (The Message)