As my heart becomes more awakened, so do my fears. And alongside the attempts to step out and risk again, to live daringly, I have faced a swarm of lies reminding me to sit down. What if they see me? What if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t like what they see?
I am not an artist. But I was in small group led by a friend who is an incredible artist, and she took us on a journey of unlocking creativity. She challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, risk being messy and “imperfect”, and release the creativity that was inside of me. And so my first assignment was to paint. And not just paint sweetly. But to throw it. To find the colors that soothe my soul, and toss them all over a stark white canvas. To make my mark on something. So I took a canvas nearly larger than me, a bunch of paint, and my fears outside into a field and let it all out. To be honest, the exercise was intimidating. The performance in me was so stressed out because I didn’t even know “how” to throw paint. It sounded fun at first, but when it became my own hands held responsible, it just felt too vulnerable. When people saw this painting, what would they think of me? Who I am to be putting paint on this canvas? I’m not an artist!
But, earlier that day, as I was preparing for the assignment, I felt the Lord say to me, “I just want you to Show Up”. It struck me funny that I could be “there” and yet never show up. And He began to talk to me about the way he likes to dance with His people. A kind of dance where I offer a “step” of what I am honestly able to do, and He surrounds it with glory. Then He steps toward me with a promise, and I respond with a heart willing to receive. The Dance where imperfections do not exist, results are not graded, and the joy of being together is more rich than success.
Oftentimes, as believers we tell God “I’ll go wherever You want me to go”, and then we wait for Him to tell us what to do. We can’t afford to do it wrong. And so we feel stuck until we are sure that He said go. But sometimes in our pursuit to do it so well, we do nothing at all. We call it, “finding His will for our life”. But in this Dance of life with Him, our heart’s desire is to go where He goes, but then we hear Him say back to us, “I’ll come with you where you go”. Trusting the One who loves us, is knowing that He is on our side, and that He is weaving things together for Good. He is Sovereign enough to actually remain sovereign in spite of my mistakes. As we show up, He waits to see what we will bring, and then He massages in His redemptive transformation. He strengthens what feels weak, redeems what gets lost, heals the pain, rights the wrong, and hopes for us to get back up again. Love never fails.
Throwing paint on that canvas released something in me that made me feel courageous. Brave. Doing something new, in a different way, retrained my mind to find a capacity inside of me. The strength is there all along, but the fears are so intimidating that they hold me back. I get to Show Up and see what I can do, and see what He’s put in me. To take a look at these hands, and say that they were made for something great. Let’s see what they can do. At the risk of failing, knowing that He is on my side to breathe life into whatever I am able bring.
After about five layers of throwing beautiful colors and swirling them all around with a scaffold, I was finished with my painting. I was surprised at the amount of emotional energy it took to get through that exercise. But as I looked at it, I was overwhelmed. Not by the artistic quality, but by how much of me was on that canvas. I felt exposed. Known. No longer hidden. Every swirl, splash of color, mistake, and beautiful design was seen. And I couldn’t do a thing about it.
My next assignment was to take that painting home and to hang it on my wall. There was another wave of emotion as I again risked being found inadequate. My family was supportive, but of course we all knew I was not a professional artist. They generously allowed me to hang it loud over our kitchen table. We looked at me every day. Flawed and all. I was up there. Waiting to be scrutinized, drawing out opinions, vulnerable to tastes, and wide open for adoration. It was surprising how tempted I was to explain and defend myself, or even to discount the praise. Until, eventually after a couple of days, I looked up at it and found nothing to prove. There I was. And I was proud. I even enjoyed it. I liked me. I liked who He made me to be, even if I was still sloppy in the discovery. And I felt His Pleasure. What a team. I showed up. I was so glad I did, because I didn’t even know I was in there.