Blank Canvas

I dabble in painting sometimes. I’m not a great artist, just so-so. I can make an attempt at copying something I see, but I can’t come up with something new on my own very successfully. Whenever I look at something I’ve painted, all I can see are the flaws. Sometimes I have to really back up and squint to see the intent in the painting. Looking at it up close it’s just globs of color dabbed here and there.

I don’t have good technique. Actually, I have no technique at all. I don’t know what brush to use to get a certain result, or how to use any particular brush to get something new and interesting.

I like to watch videos on paintings, you know the ones where the artist just records themselves painting, starting from a blank canvas. I’m always amazed at what the artist can create from brush and color. I can follow along and make a stab at it, but it never comes close to the original.

I have blank canvas fear though. I have several of various sizes sitting in my closet right now. I’ve thought about getting one out and sitting down to paint, because it’s truly fun for me and very relaxing. Messy but relaxing. I haven’t gotten past the thinking-about-it stage because there’s something about that blank canvas that’s terrifying.

What am I supposed to paint? That’s one question that comes up. When I try to think about it, my mind goes blank and I can’t come up with a single thing. I have no inspiration.

What if I mess up? That’s another one. It’s the biggest one, too, because if I mess up I’ve wasted a canvas. (They’re not terribly expensive, but I don’t want to just basically throw one away.)

What if it doesn’t turn out like I wanted it to? What if no one likes it but me? What if I don’t even like it? I know I can paint over something, but I can always see the shadow of the previous painting underneath. A re-do just never turns out well for me. Invariably, I’ll end up putting a glob of color somewhere it shouldn’t be, try to smooth it out or blend it, and it just goes downhill from there. Not always, but a lot of times. In every painting I’ve done, I can look at something and think “I messed up right there”. Someone else looking at it may not see it, but boy I do!

Our lives are like that. At least, mine is. I look at the picture I’ve painted on the canvas of my life and sometimes it looks like something a drunk monkey painted. Slashes and spills of random colors that don’t go together, and won’t blend for anything. Some areas of my life-painting are pretty okay, some even beautiful. But overall it kind of resembles something a blind-folded 6-year-old did with her foot.

Every now and then we humans find ourselves with a brand-new, fresh, blank canvas. Sometimes we choose it, sometimes we don’t, but there it is. Staring at us and crying out for a new life-painting. And it can be terrifying.

I have found myself in a “blank canvas” kind of season in my own life. What am I supposed to do with it? I don’t know, to be honest. What if I mess it up? Oh boy, I don’t want to do that again! I tried painting my own canvas and only small portions of it are worth looking at.

But I’m a stubborn, sometimes really unaware person. When I got the blank canvas, I thought I would just continue painting like I always had. At that point I made some changes to the picture of my life, but really they were pretty small changes in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the canvas was shaping up to be pretty similar to the previous one.

But I have this artistic Friend. He just loves to paint a beautiful scene on a blank canvas. It took Him a while to get my attention, and once He had it, He took His time getting around to presenting me with the idea of letting Him paint my canvas. (I have to say I love how He does that…He has His own perfect timing, and so far I have loved His ideas.)

Jesus has been leading me to a new place over the last couple of weeks. I don’t know where He’s going, but He’s assuring me that He does. I don’t know if I can even describe this. He has been whispering, just casually dropping hints of who He is, who He really is, not who I see Him to be. How big He is. How little I trust Him, how little I believe Him, how little I’ve given Him. Oh, friend, I just wish I could communicate how this feels. Several times over the last few weeks, He has given me these glimpses of something. The way it feels is like being led to the edge of a precipice, looking out at all the nothing beneath my feet and feeling no fear. Feeling nothing but an absolute, all-encompassing wave of exhilaration. Like all I need to do is take one step forward, that one step of pure faith, and truly trust Him with everything I am and let Him amaze me with what He does. In those moments, I feel like I’m right on the verge of something incredible.

Like I said, I’m a pretty stubborn person, and I have a hard time letting go of preconceived ideas. I have had a rough vision of what my life would look like, even after the big change. I’m discovering that He has something different in mind. We all like to put our two cents worth in, don’t we? I know He created this incredibly complex and undeniably beautiful universe by speaking it into existence, but surely He needs a little guidance on my life, doesn’t He? Turns out, not so much. As a matter of fact, He would prefer if I would just take my hands off the paintbrush and let Him do it.

He’s pretty good at what He does, and I’m so glad He’s in charge. He has given me glimpses of what it would feel like to truly trust Him, and then asked me to. I want to. I truly do. I want that glimpse He’s shown me. I want that joy, that exhilaration, that utter freedom, that profound safety that is there waiting for me. I don’t know if anyone else has been here, but I don’t know what the next step is. He’s already shown me that what He has in mind for the blank canvas of my life is so much better than anything I could come up with on my own. No re-do’s involved. He won’t have to paint over anything. And even when I do pick up that brush and try to put my own stamp on His work, He’ll patiently and calmly work it in to His overall design. I don’t know what the end result will look like, but I know it will be glorious, because He is glorious.

I have found that I don’t have to know what He has in mind – and that in itself is a marvel to me. I’m one of those people who just really need to know what’s going to happen, especially if it involves me. I need a plan, a script, a to-do list, at least a general outline. And truly I have no idea what He has in mind. I couldn’t tell you at this moment what my life will be like in a year, let alone 5 years. I have no clue. It’s a blank canvas, and He has the brush. At this crossroad, this juncture of my life, I find myself surprised to know that I don’t fear the unknown, because…

…There are some things I do know. I know that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love (Him), to those who are the called according to His purpose.” I know that He knows the plans He has for me, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give me a future and a hope. I know He will “bestow on (me) a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”. I know that He is good, that He loves me, that He will never leave me or forsake me. I know that He has made promises to me, and He is The Covenant Keeper. I know that He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. He is True. He is Light. I know that He has told me to “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” I have found that that’s enough. That’s all I need to know.

I want Him to paint what He wants on my canvas. I want my life on this earth to reflect His beauty, His grace, His love. I want Him to paint a masterpiece with my life. I may not see the finished product until I meet Him in Glory, but I trust that He will make it more beautiful than I could ever imagine.

I don’t know where He’s going with my life, and I don’t have to know. I trust that He will get us there. It’ll be wild and wonderful, exhilarating and soothing, scary and fearless all at the same time. Already He is making His brushstrokes on my life, and I know that my canvas won’t be blank for long.

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