God’s Not Finished With Me Yet
Perhaps you’ve seen the popular bumper sticker that says, “God’s not finished with me yet.” I find the statement to be trite but true and, when fully understood and accepted, profound. To know and understand God is still working on the canvas of my life, so I can fully reflect Him as the artist, is to acknowledge that just when I believe I’m doing pretty good, He begins scraping and repainting.
“God’s not finished with me yet?” He’s not. Yet the idea He’s working in me conjures up all kinds of painful images, such as a dentist’s chair. While my dentist is a dear, personal friend and my checkups are mostly pain free, I still get tense when I sit in his chair. I know he has my best in mind and his work will improve my health, and likely prevent future pain. But I hate the sound of the drill and the smells and . . . well, you get the picture. Still, I choose to trust my dentist.
It’s A Trust Issue
In the same way, when God works, our trust in Him is put to the test. I often tell Him, “Father, this feels painful. This is not what I had in mind when I was praying your will to be done.” Or, “Jesus, when you said that you came to give me abundant life, I pictured something far different than this; something more pain free. Why is that drill in your hand?” When God takes the knife to the canvas of my life and begins scraping, I’m challenged anew to trust Him.
In his book Alla Prima, Richard Schmid tells fellow artists to “never knowingly leave anything wrong on your canvas.” If this is true for an artist, like myself, who is creating works that will eventually vanish and deteriorate, how much more true is it for God as the master artist of your life who is creating His masterpiece to last for all eternity?
Rising Tide Reworked
After a trip to the Oregon coast I painted “Rising Tide”, a 36×36-inch piece. When asked how long it took to paint the scene on such a large canvas, I said the answer isn’t that simple because of all the scraping, or removing layers of paint, necessary for perfecting the piece. By the time I released “Rising Tide” to the public, I’d scraped and repainted it three times. Confident I was finally done with the piece I posted a photo of it on Facebook and wrote a little about the experience of creating it. Many people responded saying they loved it and thought it was a great work.
Then I received a call from my friend and art mentor Phil Starke. He had seen “Rising Tide” online and offered a few suggestions to really improve the piece. My first reaction was, “It’s finished.” I’d already repainted most of the canvas three times. Besides, after all that hard work and brush mileage, I was getting a great response from people who followed my work. My wife Kathy, who markets all of my art, had already listed it for sale and even had some potential buyers.
“Rising Tide” sat on an easel in the corner of my studio over the next 10 days while I started working on several other pieces at my main easel. Every time I looked at it, I was reminded of Phil’s encouragement to improve it. At first I refused to allow myself to see what he saw simply because I wanted to be done—and, truth be told, I can sometimes get a little defensive about my work. But with each passing day I found myself seeing more and more what he was seeing, and thinking how much better the painting would be if I reworked it according to Phil’s suggestions.
I held out for 11 days, then couldn’t stand it any longer. I told my wife Kathy to take “Rising Tide” off the market; and I got to work scraping and repainting nearly the entire canvas once more, leaving only the sky untouched. I spent another day reworking and repainting the piece, incorporating the things Phil challenged me to consider. The end result was a much improved painting and I was much more satisfied.
God Has A Vision Of You As His Masterpiece
As an artist who has envisioned His masterpiece from the first brush stroke of life to the last, God is not willing to leave anything on the canvas different from what He intended. He won’t leave anything undone or accept something that’s wrong and distracting from the overall masterpiece. He has a final picture in mind and, while we may not fully see it or understand, God clearly sees His desired end result. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.” (1 John 3:2)