A blank canvas


So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

The new year — a blank canvas. If you’re anything like me, you’re a little intimidated about getting started. Perseverance isn’t my strong suit, so I avoid setting resolutions I may not meet. I look at the stark, white page and hesitate to dip my paint in the brush because I’m afraid I’ll mess it up.

The thing is, even if the canvas is blank, you’re not really starting from scratch. You’ve already done some of the preparation. Maybe you’ve set up a still life, determining the scene you’re going to paint this year. Perhaps you’ve experimented with the tools and you know what brush will produce a smooth line. You already know how different shapes in your life connect to each other. You’ve figured out where you’re standing. Quite possibly, you’ve spent years honing your talents, completing exercises, studying how different techniques deliver different results.

It’s also important to remember that you’re not creating all alone. When you let Him, God will put His hand over yours and guide the brush. Even so, you still have some choices. You can paint anything you want. Choose the style. Colors. Subject matter. Even where it will be displayed once it’s finished. You can even change directions partway through. Or start over. But if you listen to His direction, it will be so much better than whatever you’d create on your own.

It’s OK if you want to lose weight, and in about six weeks, you suddenly have a craving for chocolate gelato you can no longer resist. It’s fine if you have high hopes for your daily journaling and suddenly realize you got busy and skipped a few days. I suspect that, like most of us, you’re your own harshest critic. So extend yourself some grace. Erase all shame and thoughts of condemnation, and step back up to that canvas. God doesn’t condemn. Instead, He lifts us up.

The joy of painting is in the process. In the creation. In playing, experimenting — and even in turning the mistakes into something good. 

Maybe you’ll leave the half-painted canvas propped against the wall, gathering dust for a while. But taking a break does not mean you’ve failed or that God will leave you. When you’re ready, pick up your brush. Let Him help you paint over the parts of your composition that you no longer need, and move forward again.

This year, whatever tasks you’re facing, trials you’re in, or challenges you’re dreading, remember one thing: the true masters are the ones who don’t let a mistake stop the process. They step back, evaluate it, and then either fix it or find a way to work the mistake into the picture in a constructive way.

They may have to toss out a few less-than-perfect canvases. They might need to try a different type of brush, or spend some time mixing pigments to get the colors just right. But they keep going, trying again. And again. Knowing that the most valuable lessons are learned in the process of discovery, not in the resulting finished painting.

Knowing that when they let God help them create, the results may be somewhat surprising. But they will be, without a doubt, good.

I’d really like to know: What things do you want to explore this year? What obstacles make you afraid to get started?

many blessings ICD signature

Kelly Stanley

Kelly O’Dell Stanley is the author of Praying Upside Down and Designed to Pray. A graphic designer who writes (or is it a writer who designs?), she is also a redhead who’s pretty good at controlling her temper, a believer in doing everything to excess, and a professional wrestler of doubt and faith. She blogs at kellyostanley.com and calls small-town Indiana her home.

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1 Comment

  1. Kelly, we all have mistakes that can make us feel like we have failed so it is a great reminder that mistakes aren’t the final results!



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