Brothers and sisters, become imitators of me and watch those who live this way – you can use us as models. --Philippians 3:17
Even though I enjoy crafts and painting, I was a bit surprised to open a gift last Christmas and find a paint-by-number set. I don’t think I have painted anything by number since I was a child. I usually prefer to create my own color schemes and designs rather than follow a prescribed course.
The gift was from someone special, though, so I determined to give it a try. I set up a table with an easel and my color pallet, grabbed some of my favorite paintbrushes, and began my work. Tedious work it was! This particular picture had spaces so small that the numbers were difficult to decipher. Was that an 8 or a 6? Wait, maybe it’s a 3? Only a magnifying glass could know for sure, and I utilized one throughout the painting. A tiny line here, a miniscule drop there – as I began, I was certain I would never complete such an intricate project. Who knew water has so many different colors involved?
Little by little I dabbed away, and the final scene slowly came into focus. A small beach, beautiful cliffs, a lighthouse that stood against a stormy sky, rays of sunlight breaking through and reflecting off the water, and, of course, the ocean water itself – all emerged as if they had been there all along waiting to be discovered.
Just before I completed the piece, I noticed that it was lovely, but it still looked like a paint-by-number set. It’s my work, I thought, and there are no rules that say I can’t be innovative. Unapologetically, I began to create some new lines and blend my own colors using the original drawing as a template rather than an end result. Finally, with my own flourishes, I felt the waves flowing and ready to jump off the canvas.
“Become imitators of me and watch those who live this way – you can use us as models,” Paul says. Paul was living a life that had completely turned from his former self and now embraced the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. He took the course that was prescribed for him, and he chose to make it his own. Paul knew that by continuing his lifestyle of persecuting Christians, he would only fail in the end. His eternity would be lost.
When Paul experienced the risen Christ, a new creation emerged – one that had been there all along waiting to be discovered. Paul began to use his old life as a template rather than an end result. He created new lines and blended his own thoughts and actions into a life-giving presence ready to jump up and enhance the lives of others with colorful expressions and flowing love. Paul was unapologetic and innovative – developing disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the rest of his days.
Paul’s model for us is to experience Jesus personally and then go and share that experience. There are no rules that say we cannot be innovative; I believe God relishes our creativity. (After all, we are created in God’s image – we have no choice but to be creative!) Paul points us to understand that we are in this together and are expected to live good and holy lives all while sharing the Gospel message in colorful and expressive ways.
During Lent, may we study, reflect and dab away at life until we become the resurrection people we are created to be.
Dear God, thank you for developing my creativity and honoring my uniqueness all while embracing me in your fold. May I live and share my colorful gifts until your picture emerges from my heart. Amen.