Just Add Another Leaf

Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
   because the Lord has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.

I recently took up watercolor painting as a way to calm my brain and return to something I enjoy...art. There was a time in my life when I had some success in art and instead of pursuing it I allowed my insecurities to quench the enjoyment and peace art brought to me.  Real life responsibilities of working and motherhood further helped to place drawing and painting onto a high, dusty shelf.  

Fast forward to uncertain times and the need for something to soothe me and along came watercolors.  I love the vibrant colors and how they move around on the paper and absorb into its fibers.  I love when the painting is wet it looks one way and by morning it's transformed entirely!  Each stroke of watercolor holds a surprise inside; perhaps the red will bleed into places I didn't intend or maybe it will hold it's ground and stay pure and solid.

Today, I worked on a branch that held a beautiful, red cardinal.  Along the branch were leaves and berries - I worked carefully to mix many shades of greens and to a little purple to show shadows on the dainty berries.  I was careful to leave small white highlights reflecting light.  And then, because I'm a lefty, I accidentally dragged my hand through a wet leaf and made an unintended green mark on my stark white paper.

I sat back and stared at my paper feeling so disappointed in myself.  How could I ruin the painting I had worked so hard to perfect?  I was hoping to give this as a gift and now my gift was ruined.  Because I grew up with pencil and ink smudged up my left hand, I learned that when I drew or painted I could work right to left to avoid mishaps like this.  

Such is life.  Unintended consequences from deliberate choices or accidents. Some things are created by us and some things are done to us. Often, the end result is the same - shame.  Today I worked to squash the shame and told myself this was not the end of the world or the end of my painting.  It was my painting after all, I chose to start it and I can choose how to finish it. This was not some expensive, commissioned piece for public display but my own hour of art therapy.  And so it is with our mistakes and sins.  Most of them are between us and God.  We need to sit back, examine and acknowledge, and then decide how to proceed.

As I observed my mistake, I realized it was actually in the best place it could possibly be - it was where another shoot might have grown from the branch.  I painted a tender brown shoot and then painted a leaf over my mistake.  My painting actually looked better!  It's not that I was covering up my mistake, I was allowing it to enhance an already beautiful painting.  We have a choice in our lives to allow sin to mar our visage or to allow God to turn that sin into beauty so that our face shine like never before.

God does not want us to sit back and stare at a problem and feel powerless but to examine what happened, why, our part, and how to move forward.  Eventually, we are called to comfort others with the comfort we have received.  God doesn't point out or allow us to see our sins to keep us in a prison - we are to see our sins for what they are so we can be set free.