Friday, November 6, 2009
The old artist sits on his stool, paintbrush in hand. He thoughtfully looks at the canvas before him, and, ever so slowly makes a small stroke with his brush; then, another.
Nearby, in another chair, sits a young man; he watches intently as the old man paints, hoping to learn something from this great man.
Time passes. The older man is focused on his work, and rarely speaks, choosing instead to let the painting speak to him. The picture begins to unfold, but it is a simple one. The colors are muted, the scene - well, not dramatic at all.
The young man, looking on, begins to grow impatient. Why is it taking him so long? If this man is the acclaimed master artist that everyone says he is, why can’t he just paint the thing and get it over with?
And the painting- oh my. Surely there has to be some mistake! Why, it’s so… so, drab!
Finally, after several hours have passed, the young man has had enough.
“Sir,” he says to the old artist, “not to be impertinent or anything, but, to be quite honest, I believe I could have painted a much better picture in much less time than this one has taken you.”
Wordlessly, the man hands him the paint brush.
Flabbergasted, the young man looks at him with raised brows.
“But what do I do?” he asks.
“Paint,” said the artist, simply.
“But, don’t you want to give me a new canvas?”
“No,” he replied. “This one will do.”
So, the young man took the brush in hand and sits down to paint. But where to begin?
He dips the brush in the paint, and, gazing at the painting, sees a spot that looks like it could use a bit more paint; but wait a minute - he’s already put paint on his brush and it’s not the right color at all! Should he clean the brush?
He thinks about it for a moment, but…the color’s really not that bad. It’s close, just not exact. “Nobody will ever notice,” he thinks to himself, so, he puts the brush to the canvas and makes a small stroke. There! That wasn’t so bad - he can do this!
He adds a few more strokes here and there. As he paints, he thinks, “you know, really, he’s not so great,. Just look at this! So boring! What it really needs is some bright color.”
So, growing more sure of himself with each stroke, he puts a little red here, a little orange there, some purples, some greens… and with each touch of the brush the picture become more and more garish and laughable. Here and there, he sees little mistakes that he has made, but, rather than take the time to consider, and right the wrongs, he just keeps on painting, hoping the next stroke will mask the errors.
The master artist looks on, not speaking, but merely observing as his painting that was once, though not elaborate, still a thing of beauty, is covered in ugly strokes of bright color; the flowers that he had so painstakingly painted, one petal at a time, have been made into huge black marks. Streaks of paint, and drips here and there mar the surface; but still he does not say a word.
Some time passes, and the young man, surveying his work, begins to realize that his painting is not what he had hoped for. In fact, it’s really ugly. But the old man still has not spoken.
“Why does he sit there and not speak?” the young man thought to himself. “Why doesn’t he help me? If he‘s all that they say he is, why does he not show me what to do?”
Finally, in desperation, he cries, “I cannot do this thing. You take the brush and show me what to do.”
Gently, the old man takes the brush from his hand and sets it downs. Then he takes a rag and, soaking it with turpentine, gently begins to wipe the drips and streaks from the canvas. Then he takes the brush in hand once more, and begins to paint, covering the streaky places. Slowly, the painting again becomes a thing of beauty. Though it’s not what the master had originally intended, and though, if you look closely, imperfections still scar its surface, it is lovely to look upon once more.
The young man sits and watches, and finally speaks again, but this time, not with the cocky attitude he’d had to begin with - no, he is humbled. But still, one thing bothers him and he asks,
“Sir? Why didn’t you stop me? Why did you let me go on?”
The old man turns, and gently says,
“Son, I was waiting for you to ask for my help.”
One day, God, the Master Artist, began a painting. He took the blank canvas that was a life, and started to paint - just a stroke here and there, but slowly the picture came into view. It was simple, yet had the makings of a masterpiece.
The man, looking at what he could see of his life, said, “Lord, not be impertinent or anything, but honestly, I think I could do better than that myself.”
So God handed him the brush.
But the man soon found out that running his life was harder than he’d originally thought.
And the Master didn’t speak.
He tried a little of this, a little of that, and the lines of the painting began to be blurred.
Someone said, “Try this, it will make you happy!” So he tried it, but instead of happiness, he found depression and anger.
Someone else said, “Do this, it will make you feel good.” But instead of good feelings he found pain and
But still the Master merely looked on.
And with everything he tried, new streaks and drips appeared on the painting, until, one day, he sat back to view the painting of his life, and instead of the lovely picture he‘d started with, he saw one with slashes of black, streaks of dirt - ultimately, it looked like he was ruined.
“God,” he cried out in desperation, “I can’t do this anymore. You take it and show me what to do!”
And God, the Master Artist, took the brush in his hand; he wiped away the streaks and drips, and began the painting again.
Each one of us is a masterpiece. When God made you, he had a plan - a beautiful picture in mind.
But, so many times, we think we can do better, and we take the brush in hand to run our own lives. And we mess up.
But instead of turning to the Master, we try to cover our mistakes - and make a bigger mess, over and over again, until it looks like life can’t get any worse. In desperation we turn to God and cry, “Lord, I can’t take this anymore!”
And He takes our broken, ruined life, and makes it beautiful again.
So you’ve messed up.
It’s not hopeless! No matter how terrible it may seem - whatever you’ve done, however you’re broken, it’s never too late to be restored. Though it may seem like no one cares about you - that God’s not listening, rest assured: He’s never left your side; He’s waiting patiently, ready to make the painting again.
All you have to do is ask.
And when you do, He’ll take all the broken pieces, wipe away the streaks - the dirt that sin has left on your soul - and make you once again into a thing a beauty.
A priceless masterpiece.