I sat before an empty canvas wondering why this one was so much harder to approach than the others. Could it be that I was erecting a wall to avoid the personal ineptness I would experience by working on such a piece? After all, it comes so natural for us as humans to push forward and to climb higher all the while worrying how we look to others. It is so easy for us to forget that, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Perhaps it was the words of Henry Ward Beecher that paralyzed me, he said; “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” What if my brush came up dry?
I looked hard into the eyes that were staring back at me from the photographs I had taken earlier. If I could just paint what’s behind that face, I thought. If I could capture that quiet strength and humility that I could see deep within Rick’s soul, then just maybe I could stop agonizing over the destination and simply find solace in the journey.
With uncertainty, I dipped in my brush. To my delight, instead of coming up dry, it came up with a rich pallet of deep, dark “Rembrandt” colors and my journey began. With a renewed adventurous spirit, I began splashing “wet pixels” onto the canvas. John 3:30 seemed to come more alive with each stoke that was made. Time became inward flow and before I knew it I had painted an image of a man who seemed to decrease as he faded into the background, while Jesus appeared to increase as he moved through the man to fill the foreground.
With the signature in place, I stood there full of appreciation to the process. As a friend of mine so eloquently said, “We paint to understand better, to see more clearly and to share.” I am glad to be sharing this with you.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Where energy had filled the halls and laughter had danced upon the air, it was now melancholy and still. The annual two week summer visit to “Gigi and Papa’s” house had come to an end. All too quickly the little faces pressed against the rear window faded into the distance. As the dust settled down onto the empty driveway, I closed the door and made one last trip through the hauntingly quiet house in search of anything that may have been left behind. My pace slowed to a halt when my eyes fell upon the collage portrait painting of “Morris”, which hung upon my dining room wall. Suddenly suspended high above my mixed emotions, I hung there taking in the luxuriant tapestry of image and verse woven together to tell the story of this man’s existence.
Well do I remember the life of Morris Spruill who found delight in the Lord and in his family. Though Morris worked in a saw mill during his earlier years, he was a printer by trade. His skill was passed down from generation to generation beginning with his son and ending with his son’s son. Around Morris’s table could be found inspiring company, uplifting conversation, and a homegrown feast. Though his home was humble, riches were in his house.
It wasn’t just layers of paint I was gazing upon, it was layers of life. The “baton” of Christian faith had been so carefully passed from one generation to the next. I can still hear him telling me as we worked together in my garden, “Listen to me, now. I will not always be around.” Suddenly, my heart filled with urgency. I began to question. “Do my children, the fifth generation represented in this painting, have a firm grip on the baton of faith? Do they know the awesome responsibility they have now been handed? Do they understand that it requires good timing to pass it on to those running so closely behind them? And do they know what it would mean to fumble it?”
I went to bed wondering if my children understood how critical it is to be in the “transfer zone”. I wondered if they knew that the transfer zone was the most hazardous part of the race. It is where one runner reaches back with the baton and passes it to the runner who is coming up from behind. In the transfer zone, if the person passing the baton does not release it with precision or if the person receiving the baton does not grab it at just the right moment, it can be fatally dropped and the race will be lost.
When the early morning sun peeked into the skylight of my studio the next day, it found me busy journaling these very thoughts. While wrapped in a blanket, sipping on a strong cup of coffee, my soul found expression as my fingers flew across the key board. I took no pause but continued to write…
If all I ever have to leave my children are the material things I have cherished, entertainment, money, or personal memories, then I am a complete and utter failure. It is my sole part in this race to pass on the baton of faith that was so carefully and successfully passed on to me. I guess that is what I love so much about the collage painting of “Morris”. It serves as a reminder of the race that I am in. And though the stages of this family’s race may shift and change we are all together in the transfer zone, as long as the baton is in play.
So, while reaching back to pass the baton of Christian faith on to the generation coming up behind me, I passionately cheer with the echoes of those ahead of me, “Run, family, run!”
“Run Shawn and Tiffany! Run! Run like I know you can.”
“Run Robb and Rebe! Run! Your moment is now!”
“Run Jeremy and Leah! Run Matthew, run! Take a firm hold!”
“Run Rick and Cliff! Run Liz and Andy, run! Don’t lose your grip!”
“Run Taren, Tylie, and Tanae! Run! The baton is still in play!”
“Run Allie and Chelsea! Run! The race is still on!”
“Run Chris! Run! Do not become distracted!”
“Run Megan and Jessica! Run! Run with all you’ve got!”
“Run Henry! Run Sam and George, run! Together, we are a team!”
“Run! Kristian and Kenneth! Run! Stretch further, keep reaching!”
“Run! Olivia, run! You can make it, I know you can!”
“Run Mary Elizabeth, run! We are all here to encourage you!”
For, believe it or not, it will soon be your turn to pass the baton of faith to those who are ever so swiftly gaining speed!”