The teacher said, “Dip your brush in water and wash the entire surface.”
My first watercolor class ever. It was all so new. I craned my neck, raised up in my chair, and squinted to see what the teacher was doing. The first step was easy. I mean, who can’t dip a brush in water and wet paper? Then the teacher was instructing us to dip our brushes in paint and make shapes like leaves: “Place the tip of the brush on the paper, apply a downward stroke, then lift the brush.” Not so easy. Blobs. My leaves were wet blobs. They didn’t look like hers.
“What made me think I could do watercolor?” I thought. I was disappointed.
Maybe you’re like me, a little bit adventurous, you like to try new things and have new experiences. I’ve taken lots of classes: photography, creative writing, birdwatching, website creation, appliquéing, sewing, cooking, macramé, gardening…you name it, I’ve tried it. I have a closet full of DIY projects and art supplies, not to mention a dozen half-finished photo albums, garments, and jigsaw puzzles.
Why? I’ve had to ask myself what keeps me pursuing these creative outlets and then discarding them when I’m unsatisfied with the results. Why do I strive for more when I already have enough?
I suspect that I am not alone in this desire to set myself apart as special or unique, but is this what God desires of us? Does God notice these attempts? If so, how does God see them?
In somewhat false humility we hesitate to name our gifts, especially the ones that come easily for us. Maybe we discount them because they aren’t glitzy enough. They don’t dazzle us. We often don’t see them as gifts, and we shrug off compliments. We take our gifts for granted.
What if we could accept our God-given talents or know we are enough just the way we are? What if we could see ourselves as unfinished projects loved by God, instead of comparing ourselves to others? How might we open our eyes to using our gifts to see the benefit of sharing ourselves with others? The answer comes in the form of heartfelt prayer, asking God to show us what God sees in us.
A fellow Ignatian colleague, Loretta Pehanich, recently wrote an article inviting us to consider taking time to be aware of God’s gaze upon us. Pope Francis also proposes that we let ourselves be looked upon by God. “God looks at us, and this is itself a way of praying,”
Our gifts, our beauty, and our worth are within us, waiting to be acknowledged. They manifest themselves in everyday life as we parent, befriend, work, study, love, and commit time to others. We use our most important gifts in relationships with others – friendship being a gift of paramount importance.
In a recent post, Richard Rohr speaks of the gift of friendship.
[W]hat I let God see and accept in me also becomes what I can then see and accept in myself, in my friends, and in everything else. This is “radical grace.” This is why it is crucial to allow God, and at least one other trusted person to see us in our imperfection and even our nakedness, as we are—rather than as we would ideally wish to be. It is also why we must give others this same experience of being looked upon in their imperfection; otherwise, they will never know the essential and transformative mystery of grace.
In my inner chapel, when I talk to God, God tells me that God loves me. God doesn’t evaluate my worth as an artist, poet, or seamstress, God loves me – God’s creation!
May we give ourselves to God and respond to the love that we first received from God.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. Ephesians 2:10
Perhaps then we can let go of our to-do lists and our frantic search for something that defines us. God is the artist; we are the canvas and the clay. We are already masterpieces created by the ultimate artist, our Lord and our God.
My watercolor experiment may not have been the enchanting success that I had hoped for, but it has value as my creation, a little piece of me. In using my gifts, even my undeveloped gifts, I see that God and I are co-creators in God’s beautiful world.
- Listen to Pat Barrett’s song “Canvas and Clay.”
- Pray the prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Avila
- Consider praying with the following scriptures:
- Isaiah 64:7 Yet, Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hand.
- Jeremiah 18:1-6 This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Arise and go down to the potter’s house; there you will hear my word. I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the vessel of clay he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making another vessel of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?—oracle of the Lord. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.
- Psalm 139:13-14 You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.
Photo by Bench Accounting on unsplash.com