This morning I was literally given a beautiful gift, which in my semi-awake, cold-clogged grumpiness I fobbed off, telling a nine-year-old artist to put her offering on the kitchen bench unviewed. I have been thinking, reading and writing lately about seeing the beauty and grace of God and giving thanks to Him for it, yet I wouldn’t even look when directly asked to.
Fortunately her Mum took the time to look, and to listen to the Young Artist’s self-deprecating words, “It’s stupid, I should just throw it out. I’m useless.” The folded work was rescued and is now displayed on our fridge door. Upon finally stopping to look, I too saw the beauty, detail, care taken and conceptual ideas in the picture.
I also considered the Young Artist’s words, “It’s stupid” (I’m no good), “just throw it out” (hide away, don’t reveal myself to the world). Where did she pick this up from? Is this the message I am consistently sending? (It could be). Can I foist all the blame onto catty friends at school? Or is it Satan whispering to her, sowing seeds into the fertile soil of sinful nature, disappointment, discontent, disapproval and disinterest cultivated in her heart by we who surround her?
How does the assessment (whether correct or not) ‘what I have made is not good’ translate into ‘therefore I am no good’? Is it because only God can make anything that is good? (Genesis 1:31) Maybe this is the case, yet God Himself said of sinful men that nothing will be impossible if they work collaboratively so obviously good workmanship is still possible (see Genesis 11:6).
I asked the Young Artist why she thought her work was no good. It turns out that she was reasonably happy with it until seeing what others had done. Then the self-abasement began, “I’m useless, I’m no good at anything.” (Notice the lies Satan uses to pull us down).
It is unwise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12) but should test our own work, without deceiving ourselves (Galatians 6:3–4). We each have certain attributes and abilities given by God, it is wise to be aware, be realistic and be thankful for what we are (Romans 12:3). In the end it is God who gives skill for artistic endeavours, though there is certainly room for teaching and training to hone these skills (Exodus 35:30–35).
I like the Young Artist’s picture a lot. It speaks to me of the transformation of autumn, the blaze of colour as seasons turn and the output of summer growth reabsorbed into branches, giving a last shout of glory before falling to become mulch for spring buds. In His extravagance God makes the leaves turn brilliant yellow and red, it could have been boring brown.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven
(Ecclesiastes 3:1 ESV)