Unity

Art class was never my favorite, but the public school system was always on a mission to create a well-rounded individual. So for those who were going to pursue basket weaving or making paper chains, we had to put in our time so our future would be successful.

There is artistic talent in my family that my daughters inherited, but it seemed to bypass me. It is so frustrating to see mentally what I want to put on paper but then produce something that is not even near what was intended. There’s darkness between that part of my brain and my hand.

I had always been under the impression that the ability to draw was given to some, not to others. There are claims out there that this isn’t true. If you work at it, like playing the piano, you can pick it up just as if you have natural talent.

I was never given this insight in school. Most of our instructors floated into the room and seemed abstract, like the projects they expected us to complete. We were supposed to glue things and apply paint to blank pieces of paper.

It was to reveal my deeper self with no directions, and it was a “do what comes to mind” type of thing.

This was the exact opposite of books and writing that I was drawn to. Those have rules like reading left to right, and there’s a point.

An article I read recently about this topic lost credibility for me with its grammatical and punctuation errors. It solidified my theory that we each have strengths and those we should capitalize on. Literally, use capital letters and punctuation when you write, and complete sentences are great, too.

I recently attended an evening of decorating glass ornaments with my two girls. It’s bad enough that I lack in this area, but then to sit next to those two who can whip out masterpiece work in seconds, my efforts look like preschool.

Within minutes, I was unimpressed. The idea was to take ink and apply it to the outside of frosted white glass globes.

After a while, it started to remind me of another object the more I had to labor over it.

“If a lamp burns out at home in the next 24 hours, I’m leaving it. These are making me hate light bulbs,” I said to my youngest daughter, who was in the middle of applying her magic effortlessly.

“And it reminds me of dying eggs for Easter. You know what happens when I mix colors.”

They always somehow turned out looking like grey rocks.

She was a bit annoyed but was making the best of it. She had set aside her colors right where she was going to sit, but when we left the room for minutes and returned, someone had taken all of her choices. Looking around, we realized we were immersed in hostile territory where some were taking this little craft way too seriously.

The person leading this had shown us how to use sponges and plastic wrap. During this demo, one woman kept saying,

“Wow! That is so amazing!” Like she had come from another planet.

What was I missing? I wasn’t catching the vision, just like all those times in school.

I was in great company with a lady across from me. She was throwing back one cocktail after another to cope, and this wasn’t her interest either. While she drank away her evening, I struggled to get through the task at hand. All the alcohol started to catch up with her, and she became a great distraction for me.

“Do you know what would make this even better?” She said.

“What?”

“If I went outside and smoked a cigarette.”

Every time she picked up a bottle of ink to start applying it, it was empty.

“I think that is a sign,” I said.

“I think it is,” she said, trying to squeeze any stray liquid from the bottle.

After making absolutely no effort, she quit. Her friend across from her was intricately painting like Martha Stewart, and all of hers were identical and perfectly done. She then started telling those around her how they could improve their efforts.

“I think you should add some gold to that,” she said randomly as she took another swallow of the never ending liquid in front of her.

She looked like she was going to doze off at any minute.

The lady seated at the very end of our table was going with an all blue motif.

When it was time to quit, my hands were covered in various shades that would not come off that easily.

“Oh, look at that!” A lady said, gushing over the heart that my daughter had meticulously added to hers. She had somehow gotten over the adversity of having thieves take her supplies.

My other daughter was glad it was over as she found herself in my shoes for once. This just wasn’t a match for her artistic talent.

“Could you take my picture?” I heard to my left. The room had cleared, and she was alone; I thought she was with the group that had been there.

“I’m going to give these balls to my boyfriend for Christmas. I painted them blue, and he will get the joke,” she said, laughing. I wanted to say: there are children in the room, but there weren’t.

She just threw that at me. Like she knew me her whole life, and even then, that wouldn’t have been long enough. As usual, I didn’t flinch outwardly, but I cringed inwardly. She started to hand me her phone, but then pulled it back.

“Wait! Let me show you what he looks like.”

I wasn’t sure what I was about to see, but we had come this far, and there was no turning back.

“He is 65, and so am I.”

She flicked through pictures of his house, seemed to be focused and enamored with his wealth, and spoke like she had been with him for centuries. It felt a little desperate to me, and I had a bad feeling creeping in.

“How long have you known him?”

“A month. I went on a dating app. That’s how I meet everyone that I date. The guy I was with before him cheated on me, and the one before that too, but I went on the app and picked another one.” Just like shopping for eggs at the grocery store. Dozens to choose from.

I would rather be thrown in a pit of snakes than live that kind of life.

“Doesn’t that get frustrating? Going from one person to the next? Searching?” I asked.

“Sometimes. But, I really think this time he is the one. My husband died in 2012, so I have been dating since then.”

I saw a brief flash in my mind of her on her phone and looking for another option.

She posed with her creations while I snapped this precious moment in time. A year from now, it would probably be a long forgotten memory and deleted.

How do you tell someone that history is about to repeat itself while they gush on excitedly about their circumstances? You don’t.

She asked me where I lived, and apparently, one of her former cheaters lives near me. She warned me to stay off a specific street. Like I was going to be his next target on a drive-by? What powers did she think this guy had?

Suddenly, she started to talk about God and the church she attended. And then came the question I’m always asked,

“Where do you go to church?”

My standard answer is: online. Otherwise, it’s like attending a timeshare presentation, and they want you to sign up and commit on the spot.

I thought about her later that night, and I heard: She’s worried about her age and being alone, which is why she keeps making the same mistakes. Fear is motivating her, and that always leads to failure.

I was shown that while she wants to connect with God, she keeps getting swayed to look for protection and security in men. And while she sets her sights on the outside, she cannot graduate to a higher level on the inside. If she would, the striving to find what she thinks will make her happy would cease.

Do you know that God is okay with you coming close to Him, or were you taught to be afraid and to keep a distance? In Psalm 17:15, there is an answer that could clear up a lot of unnecessary chasing:

And me? I plan on looking
you full in the face. When I get up,
I’ll see your full stature
and live heaven on earth. (Message)

The invisible realm is challenging to rely on because you cannot always see it, but it can be felt. The more time you spend seeking that instead of what the world claims to give, you find peace beginning to settle in. You have to get comfortable with not always being able to view it as we usually do.

In Philippians 4:6-7, it is explained how to let go of the dating app and hold on to God’s hand:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. (NLT)

Instead of looking at all the broken pieces and trails of disappointments, God can use it all to create an original mosaic that can be viewed as magnificent.

There is an art term that sums up what can happen if we let God do the work in us:

Unity: The arrangement of one or more of the elements used to create a feeling of completeness. Everything in the work seems to belong and contributes to the overall picture.

When you let go of your plan, and let heaven direct circumstances for your highest good, you will come to realize a new level of existence that is known as unity.

Masterpiece

“Up you go,” he said with a sadistic tone.

He had no idea my fear of heights, and he couldn’t see from where he stood that various areas on my body were beginning to break out in a sweat. The machine whined as I ascended to the vaulted ceiling of the main lobby. I was hoping my spirit would just keep on going up and out of the building rather than face what was coming next.

Clutched in my damp hand was the project that I had spent hours laboring over the entire weekend. The previous Friday our class had been assigned the task of creating a structure that would support an egg from breaking when dropped from a high place. We were given a box of toothpicks, a rubber band and were told we had to supply our own glue to hold it all together.

It was my senior year of college, and I had procrastinated taking an art class.  I was months away from obtaining my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and the class was a requirement for graduating. Because of my dislike of the subject and my lack of skill, I had waited a bit too long.  All of the other art courses had filled, so I was left to join one that combined art with physics.  A deadly combination for a person who is not gifted in either arena.

As I was hoisted upward on a cherry picker in the middle of the campus main hall,  I was expected to free my creation to see how it fared when smashing into the ground.  I was being graded on function as well as a beautiful design.  Neither of those would have described the piece of junk I was about to heft over the ledge to its demise.  I found myself mentally apologizing to the egg that was about to be sacrificed in the ordeal.

“Let it go!” He shouted up at me.

I looked down to see that a crowd had gathered.  It was bad enough that I had to do this in front of my classmates but the entire school had turned out for cheap entertainment.

My index and middle fingertips were numb from burning myself on the hot glue gun I had used.  It looked like I had spent a total of five minutes working on it, when in reality it had sucked up all of my time from Friday evening onward. When my alarm sounded Monday morning I would have rather made a trip to the dentist for a root canal.

I dangled the object of my disdain and dropped it. I watched as it rocketed to the ground picking up momentum along the way.  It bounced and rolled.  That part actually went how I had envisioned. One of the instructors bent over to examine the white oval that hung suspended in the middle with the rubber band.

“It barely cracked, but it still broke.  Bring her down!”

If the egg had survived the fall I would have been guaranteed an A.  Because it had a hairline crack, the teacher was gracious enough to give me a C.

“Nice try,” he said with a quick smile as if to say: Let’s move on to better talent. 

Up next was an Art major.  Of course, she had done what we all should have thought to do.  She had spent hours breaking her toothpicks into small pieces that she glued together.  It was a massive looking hairball that when she let it go, it floated to the ground and the egg never budged.  She had thrown in the rubber band just because she had to.

Both of the instructors applauded and smiled as if she had just presented them with the Mona Lisa while the rest of us non-art majors stood around feeling inadequate.

That was only our first project of many.  Going forward another element of misery was added into the  mix.  For every assignment we did, we were required to get up in front of the class with our final product and explain why we had designed it the way we did.

This caused me many problems.  For one, I had no confidence in what I was building.  Second, I am artistically challenged. And, I had no explanation for the monstrosities I was turning out. I didn’t even know what to say about how messed up it looked.  To make matters more complicated, there were two instructors in charge instead of one. We had to win them both over to get a good grade.

No project was without its oddity.  We were given random materials that made absolutely no sense to work with.  For example, I was given different shaped boxes and told to build something that would show how a person’s life would evolve from childhood to death.  The best I could do was glue them all together and paint the last box black and call it a day. I could tell by their furrowed eyebrows they weren’t impressed, but for some unknown reason, my C average was holding tight.  Angels and unknown forces must have been at work.

The only project I ever felt somewhat good about was a bridge I made from red solo cups.  On the day I was to turn it in, I slammed it in my car door on the way out of the parking lot.  My excuse was not accepted, and I saw them fighting off annoyance.

At one point, a girl who was as anxiety riddled over the class as I was, got up to present. I witnessed the two professors rip her to shreds.  They mocked her, told her it was a piece of useless work and excused her abruptly.  One of them laughed as he used his pen to mark down her grade on his sheet.  I saw her face turn various colors before she fled the room crying.

That was the day that I decided not to care anymore.  I knew I wasn’t any good, and I knew I could work myself to a frazzle and never achieve above average.  I made the decision to formulate the best story I could about what I was showing to the two.  If they believed my tall tale, then maybe my grade would improve, otherwise, I wasn’t going to put my heart into any of it anymore.

The next day in class as we spent our time constructing, the girl who had been publicly demeaned came to me and said,

“I just wanted to come back and say goodbye to you.  You were always so nice to me.  I am dropping this class.”

“You can’t,” I said.  “You won’t graduate.”  I wasn’t the only one who had waited too long.

“I don’t care.  I am not going to let them do that to me again.”

“Just stay and get through it,” I said.  “It isn’t worth quitting now.”

She insisted on leaving and wouldn’t listen.  Although it sounded tempting to depart, I wanted to graduate that spring.  I was tired of school, so I had to get past these two clowns to do so.

The only way out was to get weird and fake my way through.  I also decided to turn a blind eye to the artists who were planning on making a career in the field. I had to nod and smile at their work and remember to not compare anything I did with what they were doing.  I solely relied on my story telling abilities to convince the instructors of the greatness of my work.

I saw the magic of this happen instantly on the next project.  Standing in front of the firing squad, I made up the biggest fabrication I could come up with.  I went into great detail as to why I chose colors, patterns and layout. At the final word, I swallowed hard wondering when I was going to be reprimanded for a job poorly done.  Instead, they started arguing with each other.

“I like what she did with that side of it.  It really represents life in true form.”

“That isn’t what she meant to do. She did that as an abstraction. It is to symbolize life not show it in its true form.”
I ended up sitting down as they yelled at each other over my creation that I had no clue what it even represented. This repeated itself time and again.  I would sell them hogwash, they would argue, and I would then be out of the limelight.  This is how I survived the course and earned a B.  I guess my degree in psychology was the right direction to go since I was so good at using it to change their behavior toward me.

Many years afterward, I was talking to my mom about how much I hated that class.

She said, “I thought it was good for you.”

“What?!  Why?  They were mean to the students.”

“It took away your fear of public speaking.  When will you ever be heckled by an audience?  It took away your anxiety about getting up to talk.”

She had a point.  And, it made me realize something else as well.  When I decided to not worry over every single detail, I did better.  I still did the best I could, but I relaxed. I allowed my imagination to take over to the point that I actually enjoyed the mess I was making.  I also quit comparing myself to the award winners. I became my own individual instead of a competitor.

We are called to a divine path that our Creator has crafted just for each and every one of us.  If only we would let it unfold as it should without looking to the right or the left to see what everyone else is up to.  Put forth your best where you are, don’t quit when it seems too tough, and know that according to Ephesians 2:10, you are God’s masterpiece.

 

 

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