The Artist at Work
“Be sure to take advantage of the art supplies,” the retreat leader reminded us yet again. I remembered how much painting had been an “ah-ha” moment for me during my last reflective retreat, so I made a beeline for the art table, dying to see what Jesus would show me as I prayed and created.
I surveyed all the items carefully: mosaic paper, clay, charcoal pencils, colored pencils, paint, and watercolors, but I was drawn to the very first thing I laid eyes on: the mosaic paper. I’d never seen it before. It was only construction paper that had little perforated lines on it, but it called to me! A mosaic it would be. I grabbed a pad of the paper, a fresh sheet of white paper for my canvas, and a glue stick and headed outside.
I immediately saw a vision of what I could make in my head: spirals of different colors. Given my time constraints and limited artistic ability, it seemed completely doable. I started with green because someone had already used most of that sheet. I figured, “Why not use it up?” Apparently all great art starts with such practical thoughts in my world. It turns out, I didn’t have enough squares, so I had to take some from a fresh sheet. So much for keeping it tidy.
I chose a second color, this time making sure to tear out enough orange squares to complete the next spiral. Two things because immediately clear. 1) The squares weren’t going to fit neatly next to the first spiral. 2) I had way too many squares this time, provoking panic in my order-loving brain. “What am I going to do with all the extras?!”
Nevertheless, I pressed on and added 2 more colors: yellow and blue. As I got closer to realizing my original design, I temporarily set loose squares on the already completed rows for easier access while I continued to work. By the time I was done, I missed the messiness of those errant squares, so I glued a few on, making their temporary home permanent. I also found a home for the extra squares as I stared at the bare edges of the paper. Plain white paper just didn’t fit anymore. So the extra squares I tore out found a home as well.
I stared at the page and prayed, “Okay, Jesus, what can I learn from this?” The burning question in my mind for this retreat was simply, “What now? What should my life look like?” One look at my glue covered fingers and the jumble of paper squares on the page and a single word came to mind, “messy.”
I stared at the page more and turned it over. Turns out, when I flipped it over, the movement felt completely different. What was expanding and moving outward was now moving inward. I could see that as I moved forward in life it would be a simultaneous growing out and narrowing in. A growing out: the unfurling of petals as a blossom grows into a flower. A narrowing in: zeroing in on who I am created to be(come) in Jesus.
As I turned over the calendar page to a new month last week (one of the most satisfying things in my book), the verse said,
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21
It suddenly became crystal clear that all of the plans I’ve been making for my life wouldn’t necessarily look the way I thought. There would be gaps and overlaps. Some places would be a straight shot, while others more meandering. Some seasons will feel like they’re way too long, while others feel like a flash of color that I’d long for more of.
Above all, it will be messy. But the Lord’s purpose prevails.
My prayer is that I’d see the beauty in the messiness. I pray for faith that I’m headed exactly where God intends for me to go, even if I can’t see the whole picture. Like a mosaic in process, all the pieces may seem jumbled today, but the Lord’s purpose prevails. One day, I will stand back in awe of the creation he’s made.