Monday, February 8, 2010

Human Weakness and Arts and Crafts

The other night, as I was resting in bed waiting to fall asleep, I was praying for God to pardon my habitual weakness of spirit and my tendency to stray. I know for a fact the actions I in fact enact (say that ten times fast!) frequently fall short of the divine majesty and what my Lord deserves from me. With all the good he's done for me, he's worth far more than I give in return. And then a thought occurred to me, a little scenario if you will.

Imagine a celebrated artist. His works fill an entire gallery. Think of the greatest pieces you've ever beheld--by Picasso, da Vinci, Michelangelo, van Gogh, Monet, whomever inspires you most--and this artist's work surpasses them with a beauty unparalleled. He plans, he says, to soon unveil his crowning achievement.

Imagine, too, that this artist is a kind man who has recently taken responsibility for an entire orphanage full of young children with severe disabilities. Imagine that he comes to each child, smiles, and encourages them to try their hand at arts and crafts.

And then I imagine the children coming back to him over the next few weeks, offering their pieces. Their craftsmanship is, by any strictly artistic standard, quite poor. Imagine hundreds of little arts-and-crafts 'disasters'. Disfigured popsicle-stick... shapes... dripping with glue and smeared with globs of paint. Torn pages from a coloring book, and the children ignored the lines completely. Each child proudly hands their work to this brilliant artist, saying, "I made this for you." And he smiles--no, grins, beams--as he takes each with thanks.

Imagine, then, that the time finally comes to unveil his greatest work yet. And as the curtain at last falls away, all the observers can see that this grand sculpture is composed of the children's art projects, all fitted together in a way that only a true master could achieve. And while their individual contributions, taken alone, might be meagre efforts unworthy of the prestige of the gallery, the entire ensemble crafted by the artist's care is no less than the greatest masterpiece in art history. And he turns to the children, all of whom beam with delight, and celebrates with them their joint artistic triumph.

That's the thought that crossed my mind a few nights ago as I contemplated the matter, and it made me realize something. First of all, while God deserves my best, and while my best will undoubtedly fall short of his glorious name, he's asked for my contribution, knowing fully well my limitations. The life I give over to him isn't a burden on him, some unwanted gift; it's exactly what he asked for, and God looks at the heart moreso than the results. We may not live perfect, unmarred lives, and while we do need to turn from sin and back to God on a regular basis, there's no need to live in shame because of how feeble our offering is. God asked for it; he wants it, and who am I to refuse?

The second beautiful truth that warmed my heart when I considered it is that our imperfect contributions are nevertheless the building blocks of the new world that God is building. We as craftsmen and craftswomen may not know where exactly our little baked brick will fit into the palace that God's constructing for us, but when all is said and done, I believe that we'll be able to look on the whole thing as an unparalleled beauty that confers the beauty of the whole on the parts themselves. In other words, I think that when we see history in retrospect, even our own personal life stories, we'll be able to say, "Oh that's what all that was about," and we'll rejoice in how God has chosen to forge our little pieces into a whole that's greater than just the sum of the parts. Where will my life fit? I don't know. But I do know that if I faithfully turn over my life to God, he will use it for his glory, and it'll be part of something amazing. And it will be the grounds for an eternal celebration of love.

Now to get back to the crafts project of my life.

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