Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Redeeming the Past

There are some memories that we lock away in the deepest part of ourselves. Memories too dark and traumatic to ever see the light of day, so we ignore them, push them a little deeper into ourselves and hope that no one can see. Hope that no one will ever guess that this one moment captured so pristinely in our minds but so carefully concealed touches every part of who we are, influences every decision that we make, and haunts even our happiest moments, stealing its beauty.

All of us have a memory like this, a childhood trauma – a death, a lose, abuse, or maybe even something we have done in our weaker moments. It is our greatest shame, and our deepest hurt. It seems as if our lives are divided as to what came before and what comes after. And while we may push it aside, it waits quietly in the wings waiting to leap from its rickety cage and destroy all that we have tried to build.

We try to deny that this one moment has become our defining moment. We tell ourselves that it had nothing to do with our choice to take the safe route home, avoided that relationship, or picked our college major, but it did. It always does.

We hate it for that reason, not just for the pain that it caused in that instance, but for every time we bow before it as if it happened earlier this morning. Knowing that our odd choices and decisions can never be fully explained, even to those who love us, because then we would have to admit what happened, share with another that piece of ourselves that even we can’t love. So we hide, hide from those who love us, hide from ourselves, and hope to God, He really can’t see everything.

And that’s the problem, we know that at some point, somewhere, someone is going to see right through our fa├žade, and it scares us to death. So we live our whole lives afraid, afraid and angry. Hoping that our anger, our shell of self sufficiency, or self sacrifice, is enough to keep people just far enough away we will never be forced to deal with the issue we refuse to admit exists.

And that’s the problem, it is all about ourselves. We try to fix it alone in the dark. We hope that another self help book shoved under the edge of our mattresses will hold the key, help us create another or better cage. We think that we need to take care of this our self, that it only affects our self, and that it will all be okay with a little more self discipline, self punishment, self mutilation. Anything, as long as we can keep any one from finding out.

I can write this way because I have my own stock pile of memories, things that I did, things that were done to me. I know firsthand how they cripple us, eating away at our hopes and dreams, preventing us from reaching out to help another because we don’t even feel worthy to do that. What I did or what was done to me, doesn’t matter. Fill in the blanks with your own list for now, and perhaps one day, over a cup of coffee, I will share.

The point is the particular memory doesn’t matter. It never has. All that matters is it was enough to leave a mark on your soul. And as long as we make it our life’s goal to cover up that mark, we are denying the power of God to redeem all things to his glory. Oh, we can say we have great faith, live a life that seems to demonstrate our maturity and dependence on the Lord, but it’s all a lie and we are living a faithless life.

So how do move into a life that declares that God is faithful and capable of redeeming anything that we freely release to him? We learn how to stop hiding. We find people we can trust, and we tell them our story – every horrifying detail. We tell them the worst of what have experienced, the worst of what we have done, and we stop trying to control the consequences. We let God take care of that.

I won’t lie to you. It is the scariest thing you will ever do. You will feel bare and vulnerable. Your voice will give out, and you will convince yourself no one will ever love you if you say a word. Your head will feel as if it is going to split open like an overripe melon, all your ideas spilling like rotten pulp onto the ground. It will hurt. You will be able to feel the memory being extracted from your being, like a colossal splinter leaving your heart, and somewhere along the way, the nausea will set in. And the voices in the back of your head, the ones you have relied on for so long to keep you safe will tell you to run, not today, do it later, you need more time.

The thing is, our God deserves the highest honor we can give him. And like so many God things, this one seems so backwards to our human minds, so we give him our worst. Our worst moment, our worst pain, our worst shame. It makes no sense but this is the beauty of who He is. Because this amazing God takes all of it and redeems it, turning it into something beautiful and amazing. Our stories are transformed, becoming the reason to praise, becoming the promise of hope for others who once thought they were alone. And as we experience His healing, it our story, our testimony that becomes the means through which we participate in His redemption of not only ourselves, but the world.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

God In Search of Man, A Review (Rave, Really)

While I was working on my master’s degree, something strange happened. I found a book that I absolutely fell in love with. I read this book like it was the decadent treat that it was, with words to luscious that I had to force myself to refrain from licking the pages. It is a book that I return to frequently still yet, reading and rereading my favorite parts. My poor copy is dripping with ink that I have added, questions I wish to explore further, passages that moved me underlined with green ink and underlined again with red so they leap from the page. What makes this so strange is this book was assigned, it isn’t a novel, a historical work, or even a collection of encouraging Christian phrases – it was a philosophy book about faith.

Written by Abraham Joshua Heschel, it isn’t even written from a Christian perspective. It is an exploration of Jewish thought and faith. He explains the challenges that face anyone who wishes to take the Hebrew Scriptures seriously, to make them an active central part of our lives. I suppose in some ways it seems strange that I would be so captivated by a work about a faith that isn’t specifically mine, but when we remember the debt that Christianity owes to Judaism I find it strange that we all aren’t celebrating, or at least honoring, this great religion.

The questions that Heschel offers are valid questions to ask of our own faith. They encompass Christianity in that our faith springs from the very Scriptures that are the foundation of Judaism. He grapples with the issues that face any faith that wishes to be more than simply another tradition, a faith that moves beyond mere observance of rituals and rights but becomes a radical life changing force within ourselves and our world.

As I held the book for the first time, I found ideas and thoughts that were so close to those that already danced about my head, but with accuracy I do not posses. I saw the words that captured that fleeting thought that had defied definition, and therefore understanding, pinning it to the page, allowing me to know the true nature of the question. Heschel’s work about his own faith, a faith that he lived radically and boldly, has helped me to understand the nature of my faith as few Christian works have done, and I am not alone.

It is easy to pick out a Heschel fan, simple start the line, “The Bible is not man’s book about God, . . .” And they will chime in with, “. . .it is God’s book about man.” What a simple but theologically profound statement! And we get it. Not because we are brilliant, but rather that we have experienced how this little shift in our perspective changed how we read the Bible. It has reshaped our theology, and suddenly God became so much bigger than we had ever allowed ourselves to hope.

Heschel proposes that theology presupposes that it has the answer, and this mindset has often prevented us from asking the questions we need to ask. Philosophy, on the other hand, makes no pretense of having an answer, but offers us the tools to ask the right questions. When we allow both of these disciplines to shape our approach to matters of faith, God, and the Bible we can understand that while we have the answer if we do not know which questions it answers and how it answers those questions than we are unable to apply the answer to our lives.

In his work, the God Heschel presents is a God big enough to handle our questions, even desires that we bring his questions to him. God is not distant or far from those who love him, he is seeking a people who rejoice when he is revealed to them. God is seeking us for relationship, fully aware that relationship with flawed humanity will be necessity also be flawed, but a God who desires to know us any way. He is a God who makes concessions to humanity while still calling us to be greater than we were without him.

Heschel challenges religion to be big enough and responsive enough to be source of inspiration and strength for this time and place. He points out the failings of religion in the past, when it dried up and was nothing more than a carefully preserved heirloom, and he loudly declares that this is not enough. God is alive, so any faith that claims to be of and for him must also be alive.

To be fair, it is a long book, and can be dry in some places, but digging out the nuggets are worth the time. The depth and layers of meaning in Heschel’s writing warrants reading and rereading to wring the most from the words. It is not a book to borrow from the library, you will want to write in it. Nor is it a book that you want to order used, because the previous owner actually read it they will have written in it. So if this appeals to you go head and ante up, pay full price it is worth it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Once a Decade Moment of Sappiness - For my friends

What is friendship? Real and true friendship, is it something that you experience in a moment? A brief fleeting pearl of time when you make a connection so strong that you feel like you have known each other for a life time? Is relationships that tend like a tree in an orchard, carefully pruning away the lifeless branches, giving others room to bloom and bear fruit? Is it stable and strong providing you with a firm place to leap from? Safety and security in a storm? Is it pliable, bending and swaying with the rhythms of life?

Is a friend someone you talk to every day? Someone with whom you have a brief encounter? That person who calls you up in the middle of the night to celebrate a small triumph or grieve over a great woe? Is it the person that only calls every two years, but it feels like you have never been apart? Someone to tell your secrets to, the one with whom all your pretenses easily fall away and sees you for who you really are?

Are they sources of strength in their quiet acceptance? Are they fountains of spontaneity, pulling you into shenanigans you would never do on your own? Do they push you dig deeper, fly higher, and try harder? Give you permission to rest, to cry, to laugh when no one else understands? Can you believe great dreams with them or simply be?

Do you fight, love, and become who you would hope to be in their presence? Do they call you on your garbage, especially when it is aimed at yourself? Do they let you wallow in self pity and then pull you out of the pits of despair when the timer goes off? Is honesty tempered with love? Is strength softened with compassion?

Can you hold their hands and watch as their world crumbles before them, because you know they stood by you when yours came crashing down? Do you ache with their pain when they lose it all? Does their tragedy rip at your heart, even as you hold it together to be a haven for them?

In my life, I have been blessed with a handful of friends. People who have been one or all of these things to me, for me, and ones for whom I hope to be the same for them. For a few of us, our lives are so entangled that you cannot tell where one life starts and the other begins. We have shared it all joy, triumph, heartache, fear, and hope. We dream our biggest dreams together, and we gently ground each other when we try to fly higher than our wings were made to go. We have held each other up when the world has rolled beneath our feet, leaving us to wonder if this life too cruel to be endured.

They are friends who listen to my midnight rants, and for them no call comes to late or early. They are the ones who call me on delusions of grandeur but refuse to let me accept the title of victim. They are the voices that remind me to be honest with myself, but to attempt great things. They are the ones who will pick me up when I need a ride, invade my fortress of solitude, and push me into the deep end. I love them because they are gentle with my frailties, and tough on my stupidity.

I have friends that I met once, and like sisters separate at birth we struggle to fit an entire lifetime of stories into a single afternoon. Laughing and sharing scars as we recognize one who knows us without being told, but taking delight in the telling. These friends are like a glass of fine wine – savored, enjoyed, and remembered fondly with a smile. They are the ones I wish I could call back into my life, but time and distance makes it impossible, so we rest in the comfort of knowing merely that they exist. Waiting for the day when perhaps there will be another few moments of indulgence.

Each friendship so different, valuable and beautiful for their uniqueness, and what they have brought to my life. Each making my world a little larger, a little less lonely, and little more of an adventure. They have helped me see myself better, and they have loved me as I am. You have helped me love me a little better, and with you I have learned to enjoy who I am. It is one of the greatest gifts a human being can give to another.

So there it is, my one moment of sappiness for this decade. I know I can count on all my true friends to torment me unmercifully about it. I love you any way.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

S-ingle A-wareness D-ay draweth nigh!

This is a repost from last year, and although I have become a convert, I wanted to remember all my single friends out there.

Warning: The following post is a public service announcement for those of you who have forgotten what it is like to be single on the 14th of February. Out of respect for those who observe the great holiday of S.A.D., I have used the traditional and sacred language of sarcasm. For those unfamiliar with this particular dialect, please be aware that superlative must be invoked and extremism is mandatory. Do not interpret the text too literally.

Single Awareness Day is encroaching once again.

For those of you who are unaware of this holiday, congratulations. We are aware that many have chosen not to follow in the observance of SAD and chose instead the media endorsed Valentine’s day. As we live in a free country this is your right, but please do not disregard our grand tradition.

You may have to overlook the fact we snarl a bit at the images of naked baby cherubs with bows and arrows, or that we grouch about the multitude of roses that seem to magically appear in the dead of winter. You may need to look into your heart to find a smidgeon of forgiveness if we scoff at the idea of true love and all its joys. These are sacred customs for us, a reminder of our own self sufficiency and that we really don’t need chocolate as much as the next girl. Candlelit dinners are for people who don’t like to look at who they are dining with and heart shaped balloons are a frivolous waste of money.

It is a great divide in our ideologies that as brothers and sisters in Christ we must overlook, and it is but a single day. So enjoy what you so erroneously refer to as Valentine’s Day, and we will try to overlook your extravagance in folly.

I know there are few of you who pity us and believe that it is your duty to convert us, to show us the joy of your holiday, but please understand that you are wasting your time and possibly posing a threat to your well being. However, there always seems to be at least one of you who think that you can help us see the error of our cynicism and find this to be a great excuse. Allow me to offer some helpful advice on how to be real friend to the single person in your life.

1.Do NOT set them up for a blind date on this day. We have vivid imaginations and you cannot imagine the miraculous things we believe might happen if we have dinner with the right person on this night. Way too much pressure, besides there is some crazy atmospheric thing that happens making everyone either terribly attractive or just terrible. Set ups on this night won’t work. Save our friendship and do NOT do it.

2.Do NOT try to make us feel better by sending us flowers at work. It is humiliating enough to be the only girl without a bouquet on her desk. Do not make it worse by making us confess to co-workers that the flowers are really from our mother, gal pal, or a male friend who felt pity for us.

3.Do NOT tell us about your great plans unless we ask. Some of us are working very hard to forget that this day even exists. Others of us are masochistic and derive some sort of twisted joy out of this added reminder of all the things we are missing out on. Your call as to whether you are helping or hurting by filling in all the details of how great your significant other is. Just be aware of what you are doing.

4.Do NOT complain to us about how you only got one rose, dinner was not as fancy as you think it should be, or he/she did not even get you a card. This is for your own safety. I once saw a woman beaten with a baseball bat when she complained all her husband did for her on Valentine’s Day was fix the car. For those of us gals who fix the car ourselves this better than flowers and we sometimes are compelled to mete out proper punishment to those who fail to appreciate what they have been given.

5.Do NOT tell us we are beautiful people who deserve to have someone great in our lives. We know that, and that is why we chose to remain single – no one great enough has come along. Keep the sad faces for funerals, and don’t destroy our illusion by pointing it out. (It’s bad enough when we lie to ourselves, but when you do it we want to choke you.)

6.Do NOT tell us that Paul said that it is better to be single. He also wrote it is better to marry than to burn and some of us are blazing infernos.

7.Do NOT tell us that Jesus is all we need. As true as that may be, he has never sent flowers in a crystal vase, whipped out a credit card with his name on it for dinner, or sent me diamonds. And really is this the proper time to heap condemnation over our lack of faith on top of the rejection and abandonment issues we are already facing?

8.Do NOT ask us to help you chose a gift for your significant other. You have them, you deal with your responsibilities. This includes having us tag along to any store or part of a store that is decorated with heart shaped boxes, flowers, pink balloons, jewelry, or perfume.

9.Do NOT suggest that we get out of the house that night and do something for ourselves. Alone, in the dark, moping is preferable to watching all you couplers moon over each other in public.

10.Do NOT ask us to babysit your children. Why should we make it easy on you?

Do remind us that candy is half off on the 15th (if all you greedy hogs haven’t sucked all the joy from the atmosphere on the 14th). Do accept our compliments on your new ring, necklace, or bouquet with grace, but change the subject quickly. We are just being polite, please return the favor. Do let us mope a bit without trying to fix us. After all that is part of our sacred ceremony, a complex observance with seemingly conflicting symbols and creeds, but it makes complete sense to those of us who have accepted this holiday as our own.

Remember that we still love you even if you have been sucked into this holiday of mass consumerism posing as a holiday of love. Let’s just get back to normal as soon as possible, okay? (And if you do know a great Christian Single, tell us about them – but wait until at least the 16th. Who know by next year you may change our minds.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Registration is now open!

Registration for our April 9th Splendor and Holiness Worship Seminar is now open. The seminar will take place at the Broken Arrow PAC beginning at 6:00 pm. Visit the Pagus website, to find out more about this event and to register.

If you would like to share information on this event with your Church or small group contact me, and I will be happy to send you materials or speak with you about our latest endeavor.

Group rates are available on line for groups of ten or more.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Remembering How it Felt

A long time ago, in a land far far away, someone important to me made an insightful observation. He said that I never really thought about something until I wrote it down and I never really felt anything until I painted it out. I took it as a compliment, and I think that he meant it as such, but over the past few days I have been thinking about this part of me that needs to create. The part of me that finds its voice in the written word and painted image.

In truth it is a part of me that has only been expressed in random bits and pieces. Yes, I write this blog and I journal like it is my last life line to sanity, but it has been years since I have given myself the freedom to paint. There was a time in my life when I could pick up a brush and lose days in front of a canvas. I would stand before the clean white surface and answer its challenge with alternating fury and compassion. I would command the colors to bend and blend to my will. I would fight back the elements of chaos that tried to steal the clarity of the image and I would bring a whole new reality in existence with my finger tips.

I would later awaken, soiled brush in hand, to stare at the marvel I had birthed and wonder how I could have ever created such a thing. Sometimes in blissful amazement, at others in grim acceptance, and still at other times with horror.

But there came a season in my life when my painting became the object of scorn. The time I spent lost in this fabulous and terrifying place was resented by another person very important to me, so I stopped. I packed away all my brushes and tried to ignore the paintings that begged to painted. I visited occasionally, but that is all I allowed myself. A visit, a few hours, a carefully doled out period of time when I thought it was safe, when I knew I was in no danger of losing myself to the process. Eventually, I stopped even this. It was far too painful and never satisfying, merely a bleak reminder of what I had left behind.

As life continued, I had to worry about providing for my children. Survival depended on constant vigilance and every drop of energy had to be poured into making a living, going to school, or some pretense of housekeeping. Painting just demanded too much. So my brushes sat in the cabinet, safely out of sight, but never out of mind.

Today, I am wrestling with if it is time to open that door, like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia will I find a way home? Will I want to find a way home? How many years will pass here and there? Will you know me when I return?

Another friend of mine once asked me how I could write about art and its place in Christian theology if I wasn’t doing art. It’s a valid question. At the time, I had resigned myself to the idea that maybe I just had enough of the artistic bent to give me insight into the situation but was really meant to pursue it beyond that. I still have no desire to be an artistic success. The politics of the art world leave me apathetic, not even caring if I am commercial success, but I am learning to admit that I love the process of creating. I love the feel of the brushes in my hand and how they drag across the canvas. I am finding that my love this act is far less intellectual than I had allowed myself to believe.

It is visceral and elemental. A feeling that springs from somewhere so deep in my gut that I can not determine its source. More than a compulsion, and greater than an appetite, it is truly something that defines me as a person. It defines how I perceive this world and my place in it. It is the medium through which I define my reality and experience this life more fully.

And yet, it is the part of me that I fear the most. It is the part of me that I have yet to fully tame, and paces back and forth in my heart and mind like the lion behind steel bars. I worry when I think of releasing it, and I fear what it shall mean for me and my family. Not because I think there is anything “bad” in it, but rather it is probably the most powerful piece of who I am, lending it strength and infusing every other part of me it touches.

But it is the part of me that knows my Creator the best. It is that little bit of who I am knows the majesty and beauty of a God who decided to create a world of wonders with his voice. It when I am lost in this world of being so completely that it leaks out onto a page or canvas that I understand why he needed to speak the words that gave us life. And I am realizing that hiding from this part of me is just another way of hiding from him.

There is a piece of all of us that reflects our creator beautifully and perfectly. Where we know something about him so intimately that no one else may ever share in that revelation. It is the strongest and purest part of who we are, and it is powerful. Often intimidating the bravest of us, but what greater honor can we give him than offering it up to him?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Just a Bunch of Hypocrites

The other night someone told me that Christians were just a bunch of hypocrites, and I had to smile. I mean how do you respond to a statement like that?

Honestly, you don’t have to hang around us very long to know that this is a true statement. We are, and probably always will be just a bunch of hypocrites. There is a part of me that wishes that it weren’t true, that I would never be guilty of something so heinous, but when I look at my life with any amount of integrity and truth I have to admit that my hypocrisy is rank.

And once I get past my pride, I also have to admit that I am glad, relieved even, that I am a hypocrite.

Now, I know that a lot of you are wondering how in the world I could write such a thing. After all, isn’t hypocrisy what Jesus scolded the Pharisees’ for? Didn’t he have some pretty harsh things to say about being a hypocrite?

Absolutely. Jesus wasn’t a big fan of hypocrisy, and I don’t think that we should be either. But when I read those sections of the Bible where Jesus is giving them “what-for”, I don’t think is scolding them so much for being hypocrites as he is chastising them for their pride in hypocrisy. It’s a subtle but important distinction.

Hypocrisy says that I have a professed standard that is higher and greater than my actions or words uphold. It says that I claim to believe that we should live a life that is better than the one I am living. It says that I have yet to attain the ideal that I espouse, and in many ways this is an absolutely accurate representation of my life.

I want to be better than I am. I want to be more compassionate, more merciful and loving. I don’t want to be the person who screams at the driver who cut me off, or gets impatient with the checker at the grocery store. I don’t want neglect my convictions in service to my appetites. It is not who I want to be. It is not who I believe my God would have me to be.

But I also live with the troubling knowledge that I am never going to get it right, never. Oh, there will be bits and pieces of my faith that I will work out, become a little more adept at putting into practice, but there is always going to be some part of me that just never hits the mark. The standard is too high, and I am too messed up. It’s a reality that I cannot deny without massive attempts at self delusion.

My desire as a Christian is to become more like more Lord and Savior. My hope is to live a life that demonstrates his love, wisdom, and power. My goal is to allow my relationship with him to define every aspect of my existence before a watching world, but I know how impossible this goal is. I live with the reality that I will never arrive, never completely be who he desires me to be. So each success is tempered with the knowledge of my failings and how far I have yet to go.

My hypocrisy is based in my unwillingness to deny that there is standard that I should strive to reach. A standard that God declares is right and good. A standard that demands the very best that I have to offer in spite of my flaws, and it is my responsibility to live each day in an attempt to move a little closer to it. My hypocrisy is an answer to the challenge to move deeper in relationship with him, to recognize my own inability and glory in his strength and mercy. It is not pride in my accomplishments but total reliance on his and all that he has done on my behalf.

There is a peace and a singular type of joy that comes from knowing that my God is so great that I will never reach his standards of holiness. That I will never come close to matching his brilliance or perfection. It is what makes him worthy of worship, and what inspires me to seek him, to become who he would have me become.

So I try to live this life humbly aware that of my own hypocrisy, refusing to let it rob me of my right to serve my King, but as a reminder of how great a King I serve.

So the next time I hear that Christians are nothing but a bunch of hypocrites, I hope my response will be, “Yes, yes we are because our God is that great.”

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Painting in Question.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dreaded Questions and Keys to our Future

My cousin-in-law came over the other night and asked me the dreaded question. The one that I absolutely hate to hear, “So, Em, when are you ever going to finish that painting?” I shrugged and said something noncommittal, but inside I was asking myself the same question. When am I going to finish that painting?

I have two styles of painting. One is the rushed exhilarating type that comes over me with the force of an Oklahoma thunderstorm. These paintings seem to demand that I capture them quickly and with force. My brush strokes are strong and sure. I don’t even have to know where they are going. My job is to simply follow the nebulous of an idea until it reveals its totality on the canvas. These are the ones that I step away from wondering that I had that inside of me.

The second is far more demanding of me. It is one that emerges from my psyche fully formed, requiring that I render it in strict accordance to the image presented. It does not change, from start to finish, it is constant, reshaping and forming me into the proper tool for its creation. It calls upon all my skill and mastery of technique to capture it. There is often a lot of scraping of paint, removing those parts that offend the image, reshaping my mistakes and starting over again.

I hate these paintings. They are like spoiled children whining to have things their way, and nothing less will suffice. The worst part is I know that the idea, that spark of inspiration that called them into being deserves the very best I can give it, but they are nothing more than a mirror, exposing my flaws, my weaknesses both as an artist and a person. They reveal too much. The painting and I know it.

Often these are the paintings that adorn my walls in various stages of completion. I stare at them, sometimes for years, probing them, hoping to find a fatal flaw that will keep me from having to complete it. Knowing I lack the talent and the skill to do justice the image that was presented in my mind.

The painting in question is one that I have worked on for at least three years. I say worked on, but any of the visitors to my home could challenge that. I have alternately stared at it and ignored it the past three years, wondering if and dreading when I would pull out my paints and begin again. There is a story in the painting, one that I later found myself telling in a novel but that is a different tale entirely, and it is one that is finished.

I think when I began the painting, I was still asking the question of how the story would play out. In many ways the painting is the question, and now I know the answer. And it wasn’t nearly as important as I once thought. Over the past few months I have struggled with if I should even try to finish it, or if I should just paint over it, fill the canvas with a new image, a happier image, or one that is more beautiful. In some ways it seems almost like a betrayal to revisit it now that I am living in this new life.

But every time I go near the painting, I see the time and the care I put into it. The details that were painstakingly wrought, details another will probably never see, and I think it is some of my finest work. It deserves to be finished. It deserves to be completed, and then perhaps sold to hang on another’s wall. Maybe they are asking the question, maybe they are holding out the keys to someone they love, hoping that they will reach out and take them from their hand. Maybe their answer will be different and it will be a happy ending for those people in the painting.

Or perhaps, I need to find away to give life to the truth. He never reached out to take the keys. He never deigned to lower his eyes to see they had been extended to him. And it was a good thing. Yes, the refusal hurt in that time and place, but once I learned to free myself, to look about me there was someone who didn’t need my keys. He didn’t need my answers, he just needed me.

Maybe this is the day when the painting will stop dictating its form, and will conform to my desire, when I stop being the tool for its expression and it becomes the means of mine. It’s a scary step to say that I am the one who gets to make the choice that I will determine its final form. No longer will I be able to shrug off a compliment or a critique, I will have to accept responsibility for what is before me with full knowledge that I was the one who made the decision. I will have to make myself vulnerable to every eye perceptive enough to see the truth, and this is something I have avoided for a very long time.

We all create our lives from our choices. We all sculpt and hollow out our bit of reality with every decision we make. We can claim to be victims of circumstance, and sometimes we truly are, but what we do with those circumstances is what determines how our world looks. And sometimes we have to stop hiding from ourselves long enough to create the change we so desperately need to move forward. I don’t look forward to changing the painting, covering over my mistakes is going to be hard to hide, but if I am ever going to completely step out of the shadow of that story it is time to make a new decision.