I’ve been painting clouds, and they have gotten the better of me.
I have at least three problems. The first is that if I like what I paint when it is seen up close, I don’t like it when I stand at a distance. The second problem is that if I like what I paint when seen from a distance, I don’t like what I see up close. The third problem is that I’m not really that fond of my results either up close or at a distance. Plus, I am ever wiping my brow in exasperation or ponderously stroking my chin and so get paint on my face!
But I’m having fun all the same. In fact, yesterday evening I painted for close to three hours and it was as five minutes. It seems to me that in some ways painting is a parable of a life of faith.
On the one hand, we like to “see” God up close and personal: a face to face God who will speak to us of unconditional love, and remind us that this divine presence is ever beside us. This is a God near and dear to us. But sometimes we want a God who is powerful and transcendent: a God who can set the world right. But then I remember that setting the world right means setting me right too, and I’m not necessarily so thrilled with that vision.
It seems that it is as hard to speak “God” as it is to paint clouds. Yet I persist at both, and in speaking God I join a host of others across denominations, and lands, and tongues, and creeds. Why? Because God is a “mystery” in the best sense of the word and mysteries draw us in by ever evoking in us a posture of curiosity. God is not a riddle to be solved but an adventure to be lived. The more we know God, the more we know we don’t know God and that is a humbling, yet strangely fulfilling knowing. In fact, it gives us the freedom to admit our ignorance; it frees us to try and to fail; it encourages us to persist in faith rather than certainty. A life of faith means that ignorance is strangely now a virtue rather than a vice.
I suppose, in some ways, I experience the same when I venture in paints all the while allowing myself to fail. When I let go of the need to be perfect, I enjoy the journey as much as, if not more than, the destination, and along the way I have the joy of messy fun. In some ways, the life of creativity and the life of the Creator meet in mystery, curiosity, and sheer joy. May your New Year be full of such graces!