The Masterfully Crafted Easel And The Man Who Learned Not To Paint
I was so excited. The anxiousness within was building. I couldn't wait to see my bride to be. I couldn't wait to hear her tender and encouraging voice. As I stood up at the altar, I couldn't wait to feel the warmth of her hands in mine, the therapeutic and sweet fragrance of her skin and hair, and the taste of that first kiss as a newly wed couple. The only problem was that I wasn't the groom on this dreamy and beautiful end of summer day. I didn't know what she looked like, what her voice sounded like, what the warmth of her touch felt like, if her skin and hair smelled like a fresh ocean breeze or a rose after just blooming, and for all I knew I was years away from experiencing that first kiss as a married couple. As my anxiousness for the unknown to become known grew, and my patience started to waiver, my desire to control the circumstance took center stage.
Subconsciously, I reached down to my pocket and, amongst the pocket lent, I pulled out a pen. I remember wondering for a split second why it was so easy to pluck this dark ink from it's temporary home. It was almost as if someone else had been waiting for me to reach for it and to slide it up into my grasp. When I looked up from my pocket I saw a wooden easel that had been masterfully crafted with a canvas that was the purest white I had ever seen resting peacefully against it. I felt a seemingly uncontrollable desire to see, touch, smell, taste, and hear my future spouse, and there in my hand was the tool I needed to do that.
I reached forward to draw her beautiful outline (after all, we all come hardwired with a basic outline of what beauty is). Very quickly I realized that either my pen wasn't working or it wasn't meant to mark on this canvas. Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small table with a single sheet of college rule paper laying lifeless on top of it. I found myself all too easily gravitating toward it. Wasting no time I started tracing out the outline that had become so vivid in my mind across the guidelines the paper presented me with. The guidelines on the paper sometimes pulled my pen across them and the outline didn't turn out exactly how I intended it, but it felt good to have something I could begin to see. I could start to see an oval face and an athletic build. I could start to make out that the one for me was just the right size for my arms to wrap completely around her. And I clung to the paper as tightly as I could. But what if an outline wasn't enough! What if I passed by my spouse and missed her because of a lack of detail in my picture? This outline wouldn't do. I needed to create more detail.
I started looking around for a colored pencil or paint brush to record the different details circling and swirling throughout my mind. Then I saw something strange. The canvas beside me, the one on the masterfully crafted easel, wasn't completely clean any longer. Someone had tampered with it! I remember a feeling of anger and frustration surfacing within me. There just wasn't something right about smearing bits and pieces of such a regal and majestic canvas. It no longer had the same glow.
The anger and frustration drew my attention towards finding out why this slight discoloration had occurred. I felt determined to find an answer until my hand brushed up against a long and shallow box that was in one of the drawers I had opened in the face of the desk. A whole pallet of colors and a soft fine tipped brush!
I picked the paint and brush up in my right hand as I looked longingly into my left hand and the now vague and plain outline I had drawn a few minutes earlier. Once again I found myself recording my desires and dreams that seemed to almost come from thin air and with no definite origin. The colors of the paint covering over the once plain and ambiguous fine lines of the pen. Another observation I made was that the college rule paper didn't seem to accept all the colors I tried. I ended up just trying different combinations of colors until the paper accepted them. I settled on what I convinced myself was the most beautiful combination that could have been chosen. A medium length blonde hair that was as radiant as the sun that complimented deep ocean blue eyes. Both of these rested upon a tan skin smoother and softer than any beach you've ever felt. I got to add different accents now such as eyes and eye lashes that would put any fox to shame, a nose that perfectly balanced her face, and cheeks cuter than any chipmunks (because we all know how adorable a chipmunks cheeks are). Her entire body was the flawless compliment to each part beside it and I could almost hear the paper applauding me for discovering in such amazing detail, not only my perfect spouse, but the perfect spouse. My grip on my portrait greatly tightened as she became more sensuous and realistic.
I held my painting up in the light to admire her, and she did deserve much admiration. Surely now there was no chance of passing her by and not being 100% sure she was the one. After all, that was the goal of this whole exercise; to be 100% sure the woman before me was in fact my future spouse.
Everything was great until I went to set my beautiful painting on the masterfully crafted easel. There, on the easel where the once snow white canvas sat, was a canvas that I almost could have mistaken for trash. I was almost certain it could not ever be used to paint anything beautiful on anymore. As my eyes wandered down to the easel itself, I realized the canvas even had began to make the easel look undesirable. Luckily, I had just finished my painting and it was just the thing to rekindle the beauty of the masterfully created easel!
I took the canvas off it's mount and sat my painting up where it used to sit. There was something about the way my painting and the easel interacted that didn't quite fit. This would have bothered me if I hadn't already decided that having this portrait, the spouse I desired, was worth the slight bit of discomfort. I sat and stared deeper and deeper into each aspect of my painting until I had almost stopped looking at the easel all together.
Then something happened.
One day dark clouds arose like a towering fortress. The wind howled and the rain came down in sheets. I reached out to grab a hold of my painting because I knew I was the only one who could keep it safe. Horrifically, as I extended my hand a big gust of wind ripped my painting from the easel! I hadn't even taken time to notice the easel's clamps didn't fit my painting. Off blew my every dream, my every desire, and even the once seemingly plain outline I had started out with. As the paper tossed and tumbled in the wind and rain, so too my stomach tossed and tumbled. My heart ripped as I saw pieces of my painting fly off into the darkness and tears flowed from my eyes as the storm tore it apart.
I was just about ready to run after it. I was just about ready to jump into the blackness in a desperate attempt to simply feel a single piece of the painting once again in my hands when the storm all of a sudden disappeared.
As the clouds dissipated, a golden ray of sunlight that I could only describe as heaven itself shown through and illuminated something halfway buried in the debris from the storm. It was the masterfully crafted easel. At first I was furious at the easel. How could it let my perfect painting fly from the safety of it's grasp? Surely it has caused me to lose the only person for me!
I was ready to throw the easel out. I picked it up and began running toward the nearest cliff. I ran through the exhaustion and through the fatigue. I ran through the pain. I ran through a valley and up a mountain that felt as if it was Mount Everest. The whole time I was holding tightly to the easel. I was surprised by how well my hands fit around it and by how light it actually was.
Finally, I reached the cliff I had been looking for. I carefully stepped toward the edge to make sure I could throw it as far away as possible. I raised it above my head, looked up at it's beautiful carvings and it's unique color, and immediately I got lost amongst it's high ridges and deep valleys. It held so much character within it's lines that it felt as if it was living. It was, actually, the most real thing I had held on to in a very long time. I continued to discover beautiful things about the masterfully crafted wood. In an amazing turn of events I actually felt an overwhelming peace about the easel.
Then, out of nowhere, I heard a loud scream. "Wait!" Again I heard the same voice yell, "Stop!" I turned around to see a young woman sprinting toward me. There was something about the passion and commitment of her strides that lead me to believe that she wasn't actually running toward me. "Stop!" Once again she yelled.
Now she had finally reached me. And with a deep concern she looked up at my hands and said, "Do you know what you have in your hands?"
Surely after all the time I had spent near the easel I had an answer to that question, but somehow the words didn't come to mind. She continued, "You're holding a very valuable gift. A gift my father gave me."
Come to think of it, I hadn't stopped to think how the easel had gotten into my possession in the first place.
The young woman explained, "I had sat the easel up and put a portrait of myself on it that some people in my life had drawn that was meant to hurt me. And, to tell the truth, it had done too good of a job of that." She continued saying, "I sat the painting on the easel and sat in front of it crying. When I finally looked up from my hands I saw that the canvas had been washed white. It was as white as snow; both pure and beautiful!"
I didn't fully understand what she meant by that. But I was so enthralled by the overwhelming joy that saturated each word that came from her mouth that I had to keep listening. She told me she had been enamored by the beauty of the white canvas that was far from blank, and she was so overcome by the way it had erased all the negative things that were previously glaring at her from the painting that she got lost in it's splendor.
She said at some point she ended up wandering off from the easel. She said her focus drifted back to old things. She didn't lose her way totally though and, after quite a huge storm in her life, she came running back to find the easel was missing and her once clean canvas had been smudged and tampered with. They were marks that brought shame and comparison back into her life.
As soon as she said that it hit me. Was it my insatiable dreams and unattainable painting that left these marks on her canvas? Could I have been so enamored with my wishdream of the one that would someday be my wife that I actually hurt this precious and beautiful young woman?
And she was precious. And she was beautiful. For none of the reasons I could have drawn an outline of or painted. I started thanking God for the storm that had been the only thing that could rip my skewed version of beauty from my hands. I thanked Him for taking the distraction of what I thought was a guaranteed way to find my future wife and providing a way for me to look up and see this young woman, to see the way in which she placed who she was on the gift from her father, the life it gave her, the freedom it gave her, to see the way she relentlessly pursued the truth of that gift, and the way she fought to keep me from throwing it away.
The crazy thing about the whole adventure was how, in drawing my DREAM girl, I successfully drew every other girl and even the opportunity for true love (which was the only thing I was actually desiring in the first place) out of the picture.
What if our naturally hardwired attraction, the outline we all are born with, is the the easiest way satan gets us to trade GOD'S picture perfect spouse for the "picture perfect" spouse of our OWN dreams?
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