A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to attempt a painting for Steve. I've really only dabbled in painting, most of it done in my Art 101 class in college and a few things over the ensuing years. Last Christmas, as a gift for my brother, I did my first canvas painting and used acrylic paint with a thickening medium mixed in. It turned out fairly well considering I have no drawing ability and the fact that I was making it for my somewhat un-sentimental brother:
For Steve's painting I decided to go back to what I love most about painting: Color, color, and more color. I also wanted it to reflect Steve's great passion for spiritual growth and his efforts to pioneer an amazing small group model known as Christlikeness Groups. The main purpose in these groups is to encourage, support, and challenge one another to pursue the character of Christ in our daily lives. The first verse that came to mind for me as a representation of this was Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.In essence, the character of Christ is the fruit of the Spirit. We cannot become more like Christ apart from the Spirit, both in the long-term development of our character and in the moment-by-moment empowering to act according to the spiritual nature. Thus, I decided I wanted this painting to serve as an abstract representation of the fruit of the Spirit, assigning each attribute a color and somehow incorporating them all into a harmonious whole.
As I began to flesh out the logistics of this idea, however, I had a little revelation about the fruit of the Spirit. This passage from 1 Corinthians came to mind:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)It seems clear from these verses that love is not just another characteristic of Christ or another dimension of the fruit of the Spirit. Love, in fact, is composed of all the other attributes combined. Love is not just one color; love is all colors and then some. And that idea led me to create this painting:
When I initially came up with this idea, I wanted to choose a color that represented each attribute to me. For instance, the first color that comes to mind when I think of peace is blue. But as I went through the eight characteristics, I realized most of them I associated with the cooler colors of purple, blue, and green. In fact, the only ones I immediately pictured as warm or loud colors were joy and self-control. I spent a long time pondering this and trying out different combinations before settling on the final arrangement. Moving "faithfulness" to the warm side of the circle was a pretty easy transition for me because faith is so multi-faceted. Yes, it can be the quiet strength that holds us together but it can also be the active straining, fighting, and persisting as we seek to follow God's will and become more like Christ. Although I was initially resistant to placing "patience" on the color yellow, I realized that patience is best displayed in situations that are anything BUT calm, quiet, and peaceful. So even though these weren't necessarily the colors I would have chosen on first instinct, the end result seems just right.
When I gave the painting to Steve, he pointed out something I had missed entirely. I had not intended the center to be in any particular shape, mostly just wanting the borders to be fluid and unpredictable. Turns out, though, that it is actually in the shape of a bird:
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)I love how God shows up in the smallest places. Not because He has to or because we ask Him to or because we might notice it. He just shows up because He wants to, because He's God, because He loves us. Isn't He great?