Which is difficult. Not because I don’t love God, but because… you know… he’s God. And he’s awesome.
Most times an artist positions himself so the canvas is facing away from their subject. Something about not wanting to reveal the work in progress. But not this time. The canvas sits there too, blank—as naked as I feel in the presence of my Lord and Saviour. He lays out his paints on a table, along with a dozen brushes of various sizes and colours.
“Should I talk or something, or hold perfectly still?” I ask. “I’ve never done this before.” I feel awkward, almost embarrassed in the silence, but he isn’t. Not at all.
He smiles. “Just be yourself. I see what I need to see. And don’t worry. I do this with everyone.”
And then he begins. Big, bold strokes mark the page. Bright lines frame my face, gradually filling in with blushing cheeks and sparkling eyes. I’m looking good, if I do say so myself. After a few minutes of passionate painting, he stands back to admire his work. I crane my neck from where I sit, revelling in his handiwork.
I smile. “That’s how you see me, Lord? It’s pretty amazing. I love it.”
He keeps working. “That’s how I made you.”
“What can I say, you’re good at what you do.”
“Yes, I am.”
With that, the flesh-toned brush is tossed into a jar of water. He selects a new brush. A big fat one.
A giant sigh shudders through him as he pulls out a large tube of paint and squeezes out a hideous dollup of jet black goo. Thrusting the brush into the paint, he soaks the bristles in the blackness before turning to the canvas. His shoulders slump as he reaches out with trembling fingers to smear my visage with darkness.
“What are you doing?” I ask. “You did a stunning job with the portrait. Why not leave it as is?”
“Because that’s not how your story goes,” he replies, his voice laced with unnerving sadness.
I know the story well. How I turned from him. How I lived without him. How I went my own way and descended into anger and despair.
I expect the black ink to completely cover my face on the canvas, but instead the image changes with each stroke. Circles appear beneath my eyes. My skin sags. The light in my eyes goes out. My skin no longer shines. A terrifying angst attaches itself to my countenance, like a face hugging alien from a movie.
I’m speechless. I want to say something, but I can’t.
He continues. Layers of darkness multiply, and my once radiant face recedes into the gloom. My hair begins to disappear. The sunken eyes become horrifying holes. My teeth fall out. My face shrivels. Melts. Hangs in ribbons from a living skeleton.
Breathing hard, Jesus steps back from the piece once again.
“Why did you do that?” I asked.
“I didn’t,” he replies, staring at my hands. “You did.” I follow his gaze, crying aloud as I see my own palms wet with sticky black paint. I’m holding the brush myself.
Despair washes over me. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize. I…” But there is nothing to say. No excuses. No waffling or hiding. This is, after all, my story. And this is how my story goes.
I slide off of the couch, and fall at his feet. “Please, Jesus. Don’t let my story end like this. I’m sorry I’ve made such a mess of your masterpiece. Please save me from myself!”
With that, Jesus nods. He strips out of the outer layer of his robe, then wads it up into a tight little ball. Stepping toward the canvas, he begins to wipe the black paint from the image. Scouring, scrubbing, sweating, he finally removes every last trace of blackness from the picture.
I sigh. And rise. “Thank you, thank you,” I say, reaching from him, then recoil as he turns to face me. He is full of the black paint. It’s death. It’s toxic stench. But then, like the sun peaking over the horizon at dawn, the darkness melts away. In a few moments, it’s gone—and I wonder where it all went.
“Now sit,” he says, playful. So I return to the couch, and sit.
“Thank you for finishing the painting,” I say, bursting with relief and gratitude.
“Oh no,” Jesus replies, grinning. “I’m not finished. I’m just getting started. Now comes the good part.”
He selects a fresh brush, cracks open tubes of full of colours I have never seen before, and begins to paint.