My Godfather, Mike Hendy, is a watercolour artist. For years, on special occasions, he has presented me with frames filled with images of impressive landscapes or beautiful objects placed carefully on a table. For my 18th birthday it was the scene at Peveril Castle in Castleton. For my 21st birthday it was an image of Shepherd Wheel in Whitely Woods, Sheffield. In both pictures three tiny figures are shown walking through the crisp snow. My godparents and the outline of a small, mischievous little girl are a reminder of many happy memories of days out with Auntie Pauline and Uncle Mike.
For my 40th birthday I was given a very different picture.
A while ago my Uncle Mike asked my dad if he had any old decorating brushes lying around. My dad went out to the hut, rummaged in a forgotten draw and handed over three well-used, paint splattered brushes. Remembering the amount time my dad used to spend cleaning brushes during decorating seasons, I was amazed that these three tired specimens were in his collection. My dad pointed out that they had obviously been forgotten about and should probably have ended up in the bin.
They were inconsequential really. These brushes were laying around forgotten at the back of a dusty drawer. In reality their painting days were over. The bristles were hard and no amount of white spirit would make them clean, soft and pliable again. They should have been thrown out, but instead they had been sat waiting.
My Uncle Mike took the old brushes away, sat in front of a blank canvas and created something new. With delicate brush strokes and fine, clean brushes he built the layers of the watercolour you see above. He took the dirty brushes and turned them into a new image.
When I saw the finished picture it immediately resonated with me. My godparents obviously picked up on this and that’s how it ended up as my 40th birthday present.
My life has been one of questionable choices and flawed decisions. Of trying to paint pictures that were never meant for me to paint and resisting the pressure from others to colour in green crayon. It’s a life of moving on to the next decorating project without taking time to wipe away the splattered paint and clean the used brushes. It’s one of searching and striving and trying to give over control of the canvas and venture into new areas of the colour palette. As I work through the cliched stages of midlife, God has encouraged me to search through the dishevelled hut outside. He’s forced me to rummage through old cupboards and forgotten shelves and hand over the discarded brushes of my life.
I know that because of Easter Sunday the battered, bruised and damaged parts of my life are becoming something new and beautiful. Framed in the glory of the risen Christ they are transformed.
I think it’s applicable that one year on from my 40th birthday, I still haven’t got round to having my painting framed. I still don’t know the colour of the mount or how simple (or elaborate) the wooden frame will be. I still don’t know where in my house it will hang or whether people will think it’s strange that a picture of three old paintbrushes is so important to me.
Throughout my twenty minute windows of lent silence, God has repeatedly asked me to trust and promised that He is creating something new.
He has promised that He will honour my faith to colour outside the lines.
He has promised that all the reworking of my portrait will be worthwhile.
He has promised to use my discarded brushes to create something beautiful.
And He promises the same for everyone of us!
Lo, a new creation dawning!
Lo, I rise to life divine!
In my soul an Easter morning;
I am Christ's and Christ is mine.