I'm staring at an unfinished canvas in my room. What do you need? The vaporous background looks like a portrait swallowed in smoke, and the anticipation of peering behind the veil almost seems better than whatever might even be revealed.
I'm no artist— an understatement— yet something compelled me to pick up an armful of canvases and paints last week. It's likely connected to the dreams I've been having lately: the ones where I seem to be skimming across bronze, slate, and black pools of paint - swept up on crests of colored waves that are sometimes solid enough to stand on, and other times flood over me like a tsunami. Their force pushes my body along, lifting me and ferrying me down through hues of vibrant seas. The paint never binds to me, and yet I can't seem to move beyond it.
These visions of untethered buoyancy began around the same time I found myself embarking on an uncharted course. Last summer, what began as a quiet evening in a prayer labyrinth somehow unfolded into a current that disrupted the known and controllable elements in my life— and I've been caught in the undertow ever since. In short, it meant uprooting and moving 2,000 miles westward— away from dear friends, a stable job, a beloved church, and surrendering the scraps of my own badly-drawn plans.
Now I am swimming in upheaval and unknowns - yet I have found so much new peace in surrendering the relics of my stability to God in order to find Him. It hasn't fulfilled my expectations of what I imagined was ahead; it ended up demolishing them entirely, replacing them with what I didn't even know I needed.
For instance: how much displacement has removed what had given me a sense of security. Yet, within the demolition of those walls, I also found it was removing a protective layer that I unwittingly constructed to keep well-hidden wounds from exposure. I had relied on it to keep areas of my heart from experiencing new harm, but it also prevented it from being tended to and made whole. I had no idea there were wounds requiring attention until the bulk of my armor was removed. The process healing has already begun.
It's not easy to relinquish a desire for safety when it's asked of us. Not having a barrier between us and the wild elements of the unknown introduces a set of anxious questions: Can I survive this? If I give up what belongs to me right now, will my hands ever get to hold anything good enough ever again? Will I ever be able to find our way back home?
Despite the danger, something deep within us leaps with prospect of being changed by God. Something within us desires to trust and follow the way to a Creator who first revealed himself to Israel not in an easily seen form, but cloaked in hints of clouds and flame. They weren't given certainty ahead of their journey, but in the process of following, their identity and purpose was formed. Allowing ourselves to be shepherded into the unknown leads us to abiding close to heart of God. Abraham leaves his old name to find a new one— and with it a new identity. Moses, who can't see beyond his limitations in word and speech, becomes God's megaphone to his people. Scripture recalls many others— Gideon, Ruth, Esther, Paul— who listened, threw away predictive scripts, and found themselves beautifully transformed by what they embraced instead.
My eyes return to my canvas. Perhaps if I can navigate the fog beyond my brushes, I can hold fast and trust the mystery I'm being led through is for my benefit, not befuddlement. Or maybe I can find that the colors found in dreams aren't meant to impart some authoritative form of meaning, but are waves of beauty to enjoy and delight in. Maybe this leads to an Artist, who can see beyond what's been committed to canvas— patiently adding little by little to an intricate work— seeing it, and saying that it is good, very good.
I let the mystery dry before adding a new layer.
Amidst change and transition, I have found much comfort in the stability of a morning routine. I like to wake early and prepare a simple breakfast to accompany a time of quiet reflection, Scripture, and centering prayer.
What usually fills my plate and cup:
3 sunny-side-up eggs with a dash of tabasco sauce
1 smashed avocado with pepper
2 slices of applewood smoked bacon
A pour-over of freshly roasted Zambian coffee
Kim Janssen - Cousins
Good Father, open our hands to release what we hold onto so tightly for security. Let us be unafraid to dismantle what keeps us letting your love abide in our hearts. Remind us that to lose our tightly-held lives for your sake is to gain it fully. Let be in love with Your mystery, and not see it as something to solve. Lead us and change us by the power of your Spirit and in the name of your Son.
Leave the distractions of idle time and go for a lengthy walk. Flirt with boredom— no phones allowed. Where do your thoughts land? What occupies your mind? Take note of the emerging themes. Do you find yourself anxious about anything? Instead of running from it, run into it. Cross-examine your discomfort. What's the question behind the question? Where are the wanderings of your heart and mind leading?
Christopher Maier — christopherwrites.com // firstname.lastname@example.org