Today I’m priming canvases ready for a new body of work and after yesterday’s initial priming I just want to paint. However, the surface is rough, the canvas is showing through in places and the white is just not white enough.
As a student during a lecture on colour we were shown a slide and asked what colour it was. We all agreed – it was white. Then the next slide was shown; now that really was white. Finally after about ten slides we realised that the first slide was in fact yellow!
Priming takes time and so does preparation for Gods purposes. We might think we are refined but further down the line, looking back we will see just how raw we were. So I put myself into this process. I’m even painting the edges – the bits nobody but me will see. This is important. You could say I’m throwing love into them; these canvases are becoming precious to me – beautiful, and I am getting excited about what I am to paint on them. The truth is that the whiter and purer my canvas is, the more my work will reflect the light. And as many of you will know, I love to paint about light. I want to glorify God with my work and for it to in some way reflect Him.
Running my hand across the surface, I feel some flaws. Recently I saw a master weaver running his hand across yards of fabric he’d just woven. Asking what he was doing, he replied, ‘ I’m feeling for imperfections.’ This is what I’m doing with these canvases. Anything not dealt with now, will be detrimental to the finished work. I might run a pallet knife across with a beautiful colour but there in the middle will be this unfortunate mark caused by some defect that has not been seen to. What a beautiful picture this is of us and God. We are His handy work. God likewise knows us, feels our imperfections, and if we are to glorify Him, these flaws have to be dealt with. Taking sandpaper to my canvas seems a bit harsh but it has to be done.
Another reason for priming is to prevent impurities from the wood seeping through later and spoiling the finished work. This can take years to come to pass but how sad it would be to see a beautiful work spoilt further down the line by some hidden stain. We as Christians do not want our ‘old nature’ or character flaws spoiling something beautiful that God might want to do through or with us.
I’ve recently been romping my way through the Bible in 90 days. My daughter asked me to do it with her! It was a big ask, but because of the rapid pace we had a sense of the whole story.
In Leviticus I was blown away by the Holiness of God. What He wants and what He simply will not allow is laid out in meticulous detail. He is Holy. Much is put into place to maintain Holiness and man can simply not achieve this standard alone. As the story unfolds I noticed also that God was protecting the people from Holiness:
‘When the priests return to the outer courtyard where the people are, they must take off the clothes they wear while ministering to me. They must leave them in the sacred rooms and put on other clothes so they do not endanger anyone by transmitting holiness to them through this clothing.’ Ezekiel 44:9
Now this puzzled me somewhat because we are called to be Holy. ‘For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”’ 1 Peter 1:16 I put this to my daughter and she simply said, ‘But mum, we have the cross.’ Of course! The cross of Christ makes sense of it all. In fact as we read on we began to get impatient for the cross because we noticed that the sin and failures of the people were grieving God’s heart. We saw just how much He needed to send His son – Jesus. Put in simple terms, in the Old Testament, only the high Priest was allowed to enter the most holy place after he had been made ritually clean and that was only once a year. He was tied with a rope in case he had to be pulled out. It simply was not safe for the ordinary people to enter! But now, because of Jesus, we can boldly come right before Gods throne and enter in. We have been made holy by His ultimate sacrifice for our sins. Our sin now being covered, it is safe to ’take on’ His holiness.
Coming back to my priming. Whenever I prime canvases the primer gets everywhere – it just about ’contaminates’ everything I touch as I always seem to get it all over myself! My daughter went on to say, ‘How wonderful would it be if God’s glory and Holiness got all over us to the extent that everywhere we went and everything we touched spread His glory about, and in turn brought glory back to Him?’ Now I’m up for that, are you?
My challenge is: are we prepared to undergo this long process of refinement even if it might be a painful process? ‘For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ Ephesians 2:10