I met my daughter and a friend from work at a painting event the other night. The studio was packed with people with skills ranging from really good artists to people who haven’t touched a canvas since they did finger painting in kindergarten. In front, on an elevated platform, was the artist who was going to help us paint a beautiful picture. Her name was Danielle and she had created the original painting that was hanging on the wall beside her, the work of art the entire class was going to try to emulate.
Danielle led us step by step from the blank canvas to the finished product. She gave us lots of instruction and even walked around the room giving individual encouragement and pointing out how we could improve our paintings by making minor changes. There was also a lot of conversation at each table, complimenting our friends, sometimes laughing at our mistakes, sometimes giving encouragement or repeating Danielle’s instructions to each other.
At the end of class, Danielle had each table hold their paintings up so everyone could see the finished products. It was interesting to see the same picture painted so many ways. You could tell that each person had worked hard for their picture to look as much like the original as possible. And yet each one had its own unique style. It was amazing.
Although my finished product didn’t look exactly like the original, it was a good resemblance in my own style. And although there were others whose paintings I thought looked much better than mine, I was still proud of the work I did. I also learned some things to do differently next time. And I’m sure that the next time I go I will learn more things that will help my art look even more like the original.
Before I left the studio, I was comparing my art to the original and seeing what I needed to change. Everyone was encouraging each other, pointing out what they liked about their friends’ paintings and learning from each other’s mistakes and triumphs.
However, it didn’t take long for things to change. In fact, as soon as I walked into my apartment with my painting that evening, I looked at it and thought to myself that I really didn’t do a bad job. I didn’t notice as many flaws as I did in the studio and I wasn’t as interested in making changes to it. I felt like it was good enough.
It hit me a few minutes later. That is exactly what our lives as Christ-followers are like.
When we spend time doing our best to learn from and follow the Original Artist, encouraging each other in our attempts, and allowing Him to show us what we need to change, we will continue to grow, and our life, our individual work of art, will continue to look more and more like the Original.
But once we leave that environment of instruction and encouragement, it’s easy to start thinking that we’re doing okay just like we are. We can start believing that our work of art is good enough and that there’s really nothing important enough to spend our time and energy changing.
Hebrews 10:25 says, “let us not neglect our meeting together.” I believe that verse has been misused by church leaders trying to fill pews. But I also believe that verse is truth.
It’s very important for us to be an active part of a group of believers who are striving to emulate the Original Artist. You can attend church every time the doors are open and still miss the point of it all. But I don’t believe you can continue to grow more and more into His likeness without the encouragement and support of other believers . . . in addition to a lot of time spent alone with the Original.
If my goal were to be a great artist, I would need to continue to go to the studio, continue to be exposed to good artists who would instruct me individually, and continue to be around people who were also learning . . . so we could encourage each other in our journey.
Since my goal is to be a representative of Jesus here on earth, I need to spend time alone with the Original Artist, learning how to emulate Him and asking Him to show me what I need to change to be more like Him. And I also need to spend time with other believers so we can encourage each other and learn from each other’s successes and failures.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back in the art studio, but I do have daily plans to spend some one-on-one time with the Original Artist. And I also have plans to get together regularly with other believers for some encouragement . . . and maybe even a few laughs at my latest failure on the canvas!