Have I ever mentioned that my father is a painter?
He is, and he is incredibly talented. He is also a phenomenal writer, and I could go on and on about awards and things, but the bottom line is that he is just a man who has been gifted in many areas. I did not inherit the art gene (as evidenced by Abby’s recent comment after she requested I draw her a bird, and then earnestly asked why I had drawn a dinosaur instead), but my sister definitely did. She is so creative, and it just spills out of her effortlessly. In fact, she has her own business where she hand-stretches canvases, and then primes them and all kinds of other things I don’t understand because I specialize in Dino-birds.
About two or three years ago, my father pulled out an old easel and decided that after a long respite, he was going to start painting again. He bought all of the paints, the canvases, the whole bit. He read for hours about theories on color and different approaches to painting, and all the while the canvas sat blank on the easel. I teased him about it, asking when he was actually going to do something instead of reading about how to do it
A few nights ago, the Lord laid the word canvas on my heart, and He beckoned me to be still while He spoke. I knew He was up to something, and of course I had to take others along for the ride, so I called my dad at about 9:00 pm and I asked him if I could come over and take some pictures. My dad knows that I am weird, so he wasn’t surprised, and luckily we are separated by about 20 houses, so my weirdness only comes with a 2 minute drive.
We talked a little and I told him that I was going to write a post and I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be about but that I would like to take some shots of his easel and some other things. He helped me move them around while we talked about life and I ended up staying a few hours, just talking to him and my mom about what I was going through anticipating Audrey’s birthday.
One of the most common questions people ask me is how I got where I am with the Lord- how it is that I have this relationship with Him, and how they can do the same. I always hesitate to respond, not only because I don’t see myself as the ideal Christian (do any of us?), but also because I needed for the words to be God-breathed.
I have asked the Lord for about a year and a half how to address this question on my blog and He hasn’t given me the words. He is urging my fingers to move, and so my prayer is that these words will speak to you wherever you are tonight…
Several years ago I decided that I wanted to get serious about my walk with the Lord. I wanted depth and conviction. I wanted real and tangible… I think, in essence, I wanted a surefire plan on how to do this thing called Christianity.
I decided I would start reading books that would teach me how to fall in love with God, and began with a beautiful book by Jeanne Guyon called Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ. I have comical memories of beginning this book, because the entire point of it is getting to a place where you can really have communion with the Lord, and a lot of that has to do with training your mind to be still, which I quickly realized is, umm, not my strong point.
I was reading the book in the bathtub with the TV on in the bedroom while I painted my nails. Todd walked in and asked me what I was reading and I started giggling because it was kind of absurd to be multitasking while reading a book on being still. I came to love the book, and it’s one of my all time favorites. After I finished, I dug into about 4 dozen more. It became insatiable-this search for how to love Him, how to trust Him, how to live my life for Him. I would ask people how they did it, and I would go to concerts and feel moved, but still not “get it.” I did everything I could think of to “trigger” the relationship.
When so many people started asking me the same question, I didn’t know how to answer. It isn’t my nature to give giant, complicated Biblical spiels or to make myself seem higher in understanding than others (quite simply, because that is not the way I see it at all). What I did want, desperately, was a way to communicate to you all how I got here, because I love Who He is to me. But I wanted something concrete because that’s the way my brain works (yeah- broken pitcher, scarlet cord, clay, papyrus, hem, scarf, threshing floor….I think I may have picked up a theme in my devotional-style writings 🙂 ).
I like tangible things that I can wrap my arms and my head around, and unfortunately, knowing Him and believing in Him don’t really fall into these categories, so how exactly do you tell others to “Just dig in and trust?”
In the days that have passed since I went to my dad’s house, I have been meditating on what the Lord is revealing to me about how I first sought Him. I read every book (minus the Bible, mind you) on “knowing God.”
I was extremely well-versed in theory, but completely lacking in practice.
And to be honest, there was actually great appeal in leaving the canvas blank. I could stare at it and imagine the masterpiece, without the opportunity to do it all wrong, or worse yet, find that the whole thing wasn’t even real.
As I have let these thoughts rattle around in my brain, I realized that for a long, long time, I liked the idea of Him much more than the real Him. Madame Guyon and many, many others told me how they loved Him, and for awhile that was as good, if not better, as me doing it myself. No risk. I could read about missionaries and see this amazing Savior, but not really have to invest in relationship with Him.
I just couldn’t take the chance.
I loved Him from afar, through others. What beautiful potential….I would think….
So as the books piled up, the canvas remained blank.
I realized that the way I had teased my dad was exactly what God was trying to teach me about myself…I was far more comfortable reading than I was “painting.”
I’m not sure of the day or even what led to it, but one day I laid down all the beautiful words that people had given me and I let Him speak.
And I heard Him.
The Bible can be an intimidating, big, tissue-ish paged book to many, but when I opened it, I asked for Him to help it come alive for me and it didn’t take long. I realized as I read through Genesis that what I had thought would be boring and dry was actually fascinating, and filled my mind with the kind of images that no other book could.
And so in a sense, I began to sketch.
Slowly, carefully, and with many eraser marks, the form of my love for the Lord began to take shape, and as I grew in confidence, I pulled out dusty oil paints that allowed me to brighten it, and I started taking the time to fill in details here and there. On occasion, I have taken a step back from the easel and I have seen things I never knew I could paint. He has given me great courage in the darkest of nights, and intense joy in the least likely of places.
So how do I answer all of those emails, piled in an inbox, asking me how to get here. I guess He just told me…and I want to tell you.
Disregard the manuals and pick up the brush.
As we walked out of his office, the Lord spoke through my dad.
Neither he (nor I) knew that what He was about to say would speak truth straight to my heart.
“You know what I’m thinking of doing, Angela? I’m thinking of just putting up a blank canvas and just kind of going crazy, you know? Not have a plan for how it’s going to turn out, but just get my brushes out and just do it.”
He looked hesitant for a moment, because it’s out of character for him to approach life that way, just as it is for me. I want a good idea of where it’s all going. I waited as he thought for another second.
“I really think I’m going to do that.”
“I think you should, dad. I really do. It would be great for you.” I love this precious man because of exactly who he is and has always been. Loving, steady, dependable, trustworthy, and honest to goodness, one of the smartest people I know. I watched him walk down the hallway, his feet turning out the way they always have, and I wanted to cry because I have a father who loves me in a way that makes it easier to believe the way that God loves me. Thank you, dad. You have inspired me since I was a child to do what I am doing right this second, believing I could when I wouldn’t dream of it.
I am sitting in front of a computer screen that I have spent most of my life leaving blank, because I didn’t think that I was really good enough to be a writer. I think about all of the canvases in my days that I have left untouched for fear of failure. Do you have any of those? The ones that you leave in “potential-land” because you can’t bear to have them go wrong?
I think about the greatest masterpiece of all- the God I almost missed because I was so worried about the details. And all He wanted was a daughter who loved Him and wanted to bring Him glory.
So back to the question…how do you get there?
You won’t find Him in a 17th century book, nor will He ever be truly found on this (or any other) blog. He isn’t found in a great sermon, or even a haunting worship song. Not even in a Beth Moore study (although she can lead you right up to His throne, it is only you who can choose to bow down to Him).
It pains me to say that even (gulp) the music of David Crowder in and of itself cannot give you the peace that comes from one, solitary moment, when you hand your life over to Him.
These things can be amazing conduits that allow us to experience Him, and can help us to grow in our faith-but they cannot ever replace the one True God.
You will find Him if you seek Him-He promises us that.
Tonight, as my eyes tempt me to rest, my heart is beating quickly and with great purpose, because I know Who He could be to you, and I am filled with passion for guiding you to Him.
Talk to Him, even if it feels crazy.
Open the Bible and read. Ask Him to reveal Himself in the pages (maybe not Leviticus right away. That one can wait for a little while….)
Listen for His voice.
Watch for the things He is trying to show you.
Dedicate yourself to seeking, and you will soon be swept off your feet by the greatest pursuer of all time.
Even if your hands tremble, pick up the brush and see what He has for you…
Have I mentioned that my Father is a great painter?
Well, He is.
I am praying that He speaks truth to your heart; the truth that no human mouth can convey, and no hands can quite capture in writing. I am praying that He makes Himself known to you, and that you fall deeply in love with Him. Head over heels, turn over your life and trust Him love. The kind that urges you to live with holy abandon.
One simple suggestion, though.
Don’t bother doing your nails.
They’ll just get messy with paint anyway.
Blessings and love,
P.S. In anticipation of you asking, yes, those color paintings were done by my dad several years ago. The sketch of a baby’s face was going to be Sarah Kate, and sat like this for months. When we received Audrey’s diagnosis, it was too hard for him to continue, and so it hasn’t changed. There is something beautiful about it just the way it is, because it reminds us that there are stages to this process…we will get there.
We will get there.