Featuring Thomas Clark Posted on May 28, 2008
Traveling around the country (and other countries for that matter) painting at churches of every denomination, culture and social and ethnic stripe could seem exotic or unique, but isn’t that what most of us encounter every week when we go to work, visit the mall or drop our kids off at school. We live in unique times when such diversity is at our doorstep, especially of a spiritual nature.
When Bono, the lead singer of U2 cries out, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for,” shouldn’t that be the quest we all should be on. We, as Christians, may feel we have all the answers in knowing the truth of God but shouldn’t we be forever searching and questioning just as our non-Christian brothers and sisters do among us. If we take the approach of not having all the answers, the faith we are in becomes much more appealing to our neighbors. The writer in Psalm 77 says that “my heart mused and my spirit inquired.” Throughout the Psalm he questions God’s faithfulness, but in the end meditates on the awesome works and power of God and finds comfort. He was still before God.
All this leads me to say that wherever we are in life, God has us there for a reason to change the lives around us if we are willing to leave are canvas blank and not predispose what goes on it, but allow God to help us fill in the painting, mistakes and all, because His grace covers that. Once we can accept His grace, He can create small masterpieces in our lives.
This is the major lesson God constantly impresses on me as I travel about, to stay open to His Spirit and listen. I was once painting at a church and a woman approached me afterwards with her face stained with tears. It was her first Mother’s Day without her recently passed mother whom she had nursed through 15 years of Alzheimer’s disease. During the service I painted a woman’s face looking up as a dove descended from above. This woman’s mother told her as a child that when you see a dove it is a sign that the Holy Spirit is saying “Hello” and God is thinking of you that day. My heart leapt when I heard this because I had no idea before the service what I was going to paint, so I prayed to God for inspiration and that was the image He gave me. The “rest of the story”, as radio personality Paul Harvey would say, is this woman was so inspired she began painting again and started a school of the arts with some friends that reaches out to the local community.
That’s the beauty of art. There is so much more in a flurry of brushstrokes than we can grasp. I will paint a canvas with some allegorical ideas imbedded, but will receive eight more from people who have just witnessed it. Ten people can read a scripture and, lo and behold, there are ten personal interpretations of it’s meaning. Just as a painting is two dimensional in nature, but can appear to have more depth, so too is God layered and multidimensional. Sometimes, I believe, we as Christians want the answers to be like “paint by number” paintings when, in reality, they tend to be more like an abstract painting where you are asked to dig a little deeper to find the nuances of the meaning and someone else may come to a completely different conclusion. The parables of Jesus were more abstract than representational causing us to reflect on our own hearts and mindsets.
So, if you ever find yourself in a stagnant pool or at a crossroads in search for direction don’t forget to pause and listen...up, and don’t be surprised if a dove appears.