What are you learning about life and following Jesus?
“That there are dark, dark places that have to be faced and excavated in my heart. I can never dust off my hands and say, “There! Nearly done.” Not even close. Grace becomes more precious by the day.” -Kathy Keller
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…In love… (Ephesians, chapter 1) Using bubble wrap for texture.
This past week, my friend, Judy, chose to come and help me during my seventh chemo infusion. She and I laughed and cried, watched movies, discussed books, listened to sermons online, ate good food, bemoaned American politics and extended grace to each other each day. She was wonderfully encouraging, and I worked past my crabbiness, from chemo, to try to be kind and grace-filled. Being sick is no excuse to be unkind. I’m intensional about that, because I want to see if my faith, and thus grace, can be certain in the dark and hard parts of my story.
I am working on a new painting, which Judy had to tuck away for me during my hardest days; I was too weak and nauseous to paint. This painting started with an idea a pastor, Jason, gave me. He would like me to paint: Creation, The Fall, Redemption and Consummation or Heaven. He’d like 4 paintings, or perhaps, one painting with all four concepts. I really like his idea for a painting. I took a canvas to practice on, so this is my first practice piece. I decided to begin painting some textures that might suggest a time even before creation.
Then, I added the tree to suggest the dawn of created earth within time. I am still working on the tree, and I hope to add new textures for the leaves, etc. I’ll have some realism and some abstraction. Just like life!
I am using the sun to represent grace, something God provided before our time began(see Ephesians 1) and something He provides, in Jesus, moving forward in history – even during the Fall, and even in our own personal dark times. I am adding layer upon layer, just like layers of amazing grace.
The second part of the painting represents the darkness of The Fall, and, on a personal level, our separation from God because of our own evil hearts. As Kathy Keller has stated above, our own hearts need grace, redemption and healing constantly, and in new places. I have marveled at the areas of pride, self-absorption, and self-pity I have spotted with the Lord as I lie quietly in bed, recovering from yet another chemo treatment. God and I tussle over who is God, I tear up and repent. I’ll have a flash of a thought of someone who was cruel to me, and my unkind thoughts in return unnerve and sadden me. I repent and ask God for mercy, forgiveness and freedom from that judgement. While lying still. Maybe that’s why we have the “Be still and know I am God.” verse in the Bible.
Here you can see the contrast of the Creation and The Fall more clearly, and yet, I am suggesting that grace and forgiveness is available in the darkness – in Jesus. Because He came, took the punishment for our evil hearts, rose from the dead, and is preparing a place for us in Heaven, we can ask to have Him as our Savior and receive grace, forgiveness and freedom. We can never work our way into absolute goodness on our own, nor can we attain perfection or nirvana and master all our shortcomings or wicked thoughts. We aren’t being honest about our hearts or realistic, if we think this way. And, gosh, Jesus, His love, His forgiveness is free in exchange with our authentic repentance from our wrongs and acceptance of His free gift. Well, free to us, costly to Him. Why wouldn’t we take that gift of GRACE?
I am so thankful for God’s grace – His unmerited favor, since before time and all the way forward into eternity. And, I’m with Kathy and her assessment of my heart, and the endless need of grace we have and then can receive, in Jesus, for healing and redeeming our hearts.
“That’s no tragedy for me because I don’t cling to my life for my own sake. The only value I place on my life is that I may finish my race, that I may fulfill the ministry that Jesus our King has given me, that I may gladly tell the good news of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24