My days and weeks never go according to my plan.
On Sundays I am left with a long list of unchecked tasks, people that I forgot to call, and meetings that I didn’t have time to attend. From my vantage point, everything looks unfinished, messy. It’s like I never even tried to make a plan. Oh but I did. Each week I make a plan. It helps me feel like I’m in control and organized, it keeps me inspired and motivated.
But my planning attempts aren’t working for me anymore.
I’m finally confessing that a well-devised plan for my week, a full schedule, an organized life where I have time for everything does not make me successful or satisfied.
It’s not that I’ve stopped intentionally planning out my days or weeks all together, but I’m approaching them with a new perspective.
For the last few months, as I fill in the calendar, figure out dinners, coordinate our schedules, I’m remembering the brushes, the water, the colors, and the white canvas taped to my desk.
I’m taking on the perspective of a painter and it’s revolutionized my heart.
I’m sharing it with you today because perhaps you might be in need of a similar change in perspective.
Before the week begins I tape a blank sheet of art paper to my desk.
This plain piece of paper is a symbol of the adventures that lie ahead of me in the week. It is my admission that I don’t know what will happen; how my days will unfold is unknown for the most part. But that white paper of my week holds so much hope and newness. The future is surprising and mysterious. I can rejoice knowing that what is and what is to come is bursting with miracles, the impossible being made possible, the nothings into somethings.
As I tape down the four edges, I recognize my limitations.
And I resolve to see my limitations not as brick walls barricading me from the fullness of life, but strong pillars that hold me up in the storm. Yes, my limitations are a gift for the uneasy days.
The tape around the white canvas tells me about the rest I need, that there are only so many hours in a day. The tape speaks to me about the inescapable boundaries of my season and circumstances. These are not excuses I use, rather my limitations are entrances for God’s great glory to seep through into my small and simple.
THE JAR OF WATER
Next I empty out the clouded cup of water that has turned some milky shade of ugly brown. I rinse and refill it with clean water. The cup sits faithfully beside my canvas. My brushes dip in and out of the water throughout the week and even rest there when there not in use. I empty out the dirty water everyday so my brush strokes reveal strong and true colors. This inconspicuous jar of water represents God’s extravagant grace.
His grace sits perched beside me each day, waiting for me to dunk, rinse, or rest in it, whatever is fitting for the time. His grace like my water jar cleanses and washes me of so I can be bold and radiant, shining out His beauty. The grace of God soaks up all the messes of my day and in my heart, and saturates every stroke of my life throughout the week with His love.
Then I open up the lid to rows of vibrant colored paints. I smile as I look down at the rainbow, promises of beauty and life. The colors range from the deepest darkest black to glowing white with reds and greens in between, not to mention all the limitless shades that can be mixed together in a moment. The paint is a symbol of the 24 hours we are given, the life we hold so delicately. The paint is all the things that our days and seasons contain, from the mundane murky browns to the fun pinks and bright blues. Every single season has its place on the paper, every hour bursting with beauty, every task and responsibility, passion and dream mixing together to create a masterpiece that we can not even imagine though we try.
Our ordinary days are the backdrop to the unceasing beauty of God that is waiting to be celebrated around every corner.
Although my hands hold the brush and sometimes a baby too, and although I twist and turn and splotch and streak the bristles along the canvas, there is someone greater at work here. I do not paint alone. God and I paint together, in time and unison. His hand clasped onto the brush with me as we dance across the paper. We streak the canvas with strong accent colors, we wisp the brush back and forth, and blotch purple in the sunset sky. We are creating together and the possibilities are endless.
He teaches me to imagine, to look through the eyes of The Painter and envision all the beauty, the goodness, the miracles that are waiting to be painted, created on the canvas of an ordinary week.
Little by little, day by day, week by week, year by year I brush colorful streaks and strokes with God, together we are making a masterpiece worth saving.
One thing I’ve learned from this weekly routine, is too never give up on a painting.
It’s a guarantee that our weeks will have enough heartache and frustration to make us want to quit again and again. But God gently keeps my fingers wrapped around the brush with His.
Even if all I can muster is a touch here or there, we don’t give up. This is going to be a masterpiece worth saving and displaying even with the smudges and the splatters that look out of place.
Some days I spend twenty minutes, other days two. But what matters is that I don’t stop, even if it means more dips into the grace jar to rinse away the mistakes, or mixing up new colors to try a different look.
God is a Painter and He wants to change our outlook on our week, our days, and ultimately our lives. I’m not saying we stop writing down dates or jotting down to-do lists, planning has its place for sure. But what if we started preparing for our weeks with the excitement of a readied painter, rather than planning them with exactness of our controlling hearts?
What if we prepared ourselves to get paint on our hands, to hold brushes and see beaming colors upon a once white canvas?
What if we clung to the cleansing jar of God’s grace, knowing that if we don’t rinse or rest there we will only have a muddled mess?
What if we took on the perspective of The Painter and saw our lives a work of art, every humbling limitation and confident stroke a part in a masterpiece worth saving?
**A LITTLE NOTE: I have yet to throw out a painting for the past few months, by Sunday I put on the last final touches, and then declare it good and finished. I lay it out in front of me, my week and my painting, and choose to see the intrinsic but often hidden beauty and remember all the techniques and lessons learned as God and I created life together.