Please be patient; I’m a WIP (Work In Progress)
© 2018 Lynn Abbott
On an open shelf in my studio sits a shiny red coffee mug. It first caught my eye at one of the Smithsonian’s gift shops.
I’ve filled that shiny ceramic vessel with charcoal pencils, and paint brushes. It’s a beautiful reminder of my visit, but that’s not why I bought it.
Rather, I found inspiration in its imprinted motto–the words of master artist Michelangelo: “I am still learning.”
And I think to myself, if Michelangelo felt it necessary to continue learning for all his life, then I definitely should anticipate spending the rest of my life seeking the same.
With this in mind, I enrolled in post-graduate school this past January. Now, if you work full-time as well as manage a household and family, you’ll understand just how crazy my decision was.
Never mind the fact that I am a woman of a certain age.
But sure enough, I now devote many hours to study for my Art Atelier classes. Yes, I know. I already work full-time as an artist.
So why bother?
In fact, sometimes, I ask myself if I have lost my mind. Have I spent too many hours breathing paint fumes?
And viewing my decision from a purely time management perspective, I recognize that taking on yet another “task” probably wasn’t the wisest decision I ever made.
But then, I catch a glimpse of that shiny red mug and read Michelangelo’s poignant words: “I am still learning.”
And I smile and nod because I know that unlike Michelangelo, I have a long way to go before I achieve anything akin to mastery.
I suspect that art will continue to challenge me until I step into eternity. For this reason, my passion for creativity never grows old.
“I am still learning,” ~Michelangelo
Yet, to be perfectly honest, I must admit to you that I have never liked “practicing.” I want to master the arts, but putting in the tedious time and effort into practice isn’t my favorite.
Never has been. I actually gave up piano lessons as a child simply because I thought the required discipline was monotonous.
But there is no getting away from this universal principle: mastery requires daily discipline.
Yup, my art mentor reminds me that I will need to practice foundational drawing skills for the rest of my life. He notes that no matter how skilled I become, I must continue to review and practice the basics.
Oh, dear me…
I’d much prefer to study something, check it off the list and move on to more “interesting” bits.
Forget the drill and practice. That’s boring. Enough already. Haven’t I learned that lesson already?
This past week, though, my mentor reminded me that while I might understand a concept, the more I drill my lesson, the more I will ensure that that particular skill becomes my default mode.
In other words, I practice to memorize and ultimately make my learning intuitive.
As I pondered this, I felt that familiar and gentle tug on my heart…the Holy Spirit’s nudge.
You betcha. Sometimes, I have whinged about trials: “Haven’t I already completed this lesson? Haven’t I walked this way before? Why do I seem to repeat this test again and again?”
If you are anything like me, you probably like to study something, check it off the list and move on to the “interesting” bits.
But you see, becoming more like Jesus isn’t a matter of understanding a Biblical Truth and checking off a lesson.
No, Abba wants Biblical truth and Christ-like character to become my default mode.
As athletes say, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Or, as my art mentor exhorts, I need to continually drill down on the fundamentals.
Actually, the Apostle Paul had something to say about this.
Of course, he did.
In 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, he wrote, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. ”
Paul added this challenge: “They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
He continued this same theme in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, “…On the other hand, discipline yourself to the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Mastering Biblical fundamentals requires commitment to daily practice.
In other words, there’s no such thing as “once and done” for disciples.
Becoming more like Christ–the process of my sanctification–is not a “been there, done that, bought the t-shirt” proposition.
And, in fact, two giants of the faith could attest to this. When I consider Abram, I see that God tested Abram’s trust in God again and again. Abraham actually lied twice about Sarai’s relationship to him; evidently, he feared that powerful leaders might harm him in order to win beautiful Sarai, and thus, he sought to protect himself (Genesis 12; Genesis 20). God later tested Abraham’s faith regarding Isaac–Abraham’s only, beloved son (Genesis 22).
There’s no such thing as “once and done” for disciples.
In much the same way, Peter faced repeated tests throughout his life. Although Peter regularly spoke boldly for Christ, the apostle nevertheless struggled with “people pleasing.”
After all, Peter denied Christ for fear of the Jewish leaders, (John 18: 12-27). And later, the apostle Paul confronted Peter because Peter had stopped eating with Gentile Christians in order to please those who identified themselves as the Party of Circumcision, (Galatians 2:11-12).
Indeed. If New and Old Testament saints like Peter and Abraham had to repeat spiritual lessons, I undoubtedly will.
No doubt about it…Mastery requires repeated practice.
And since the goal is to make Christ-like character my default mode, I can count on repeated tests.
Even so, Abba promises us that discipline ultimately yields Christlike character, (Hebrews 12:11).
James defines this as being “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).
A successful athlete or artist knows that one cannot rest on one’s laurels, so to speak.
Ongoing success requires paying careful attention to the fundamentals. Mastery demands ongoing review, discipline and practice.
Such qualities define the life of artists and athletes…
Yet, how much more should this kind of discipline characterize the live of those of us who follow the Master, our Sovereign-Savior, and seek to become more like Him?
That’s right. I think I’m getting the idea…
As a committed disciple, I will choose to “Eat, Sleep, Seek Christ, and… Repeat.”
“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek; That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, To behold the beauty of the LORD, and to meditate in His temple… When Thou didst say, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to Thee, ‘Thy face, O LORD, I shall seek'” ~Psalm 27: 4, 8
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” ~Philippians 3:13-14