Outside my fifth grade classroom door, in the hall, there was a glass case on the wall dedicated to showing off exceptional work from students in our room. Every Friday afternoon was devoted to “art” and after our projects were completed the very best were selected, placed in the glass case, and displayed before the entire student body. I don’t remember feeling one way or another about my apparent lack of talent until the end of my fifth grade year.
It was Friday afternoon. We had just finished a still life painting of a pot of flowers. The bell was about the ring when the teacher asked this question. “Which of you have not had a piece of art displayed in the hall this year. Five mortified ten year olds raised their hands. I was one of them. “I would like each of you to call home and tell your parents you will be staying after school to work on your art.”
There I sat at my little desk staring down at the Friday afternoon art project I thought I had finished. Apparently my attempt at capturing the pot of flowers in “still life,” on paper was not acceptable. I kept hoping that my teacher would bring me a clean piece of paper and that I could start fresh, but this was not her plan. For at least an hour I worked over my painting, trying to please my teacher and somehow make my picture worthy to be hung in the hall. The more I painted the worse it got. As the reds and yellows turned to brown I applied more paint hoping to cover up the mess. I worked so long that even the “mat,” which is the top layer of special art paper, started to lift. To my total dismay, mixed in with my paint were little balls of paper. I was half relieved and half mortified when the teacher finally announced that our opportunity to improve our picture was over and that we would find these pictures in the classroom display case on Monday morning. This experience definitely solidified my decision not to continue any further elective study of art. It also created an indelible memory of my seemingly insensitive teacher.
Although memories of the past interactions with grownups (teachers, parents, bosses, ecclesiastical leaders etc.) do not always represent the truth they can sometimes influence our current perceptions of those in authority. Sometimes our past experience affects the way we view God.
The first key to making progress in the area of need that brought us to a 12 Step application of Gospel principles is honesty about our inability to make lasting progress on our own. The second key is to develop hope that God can and will help us. Many of us grew up believing that God would help us with only certain kinds of things. I was of the understanding (or misunderstanding) that like my fifth grade teacher, He was surely disappointed in me, not as an artist of course, but as a person, and that He expected me to clean up and clear up all messes of my own making. Obviously this belief would never lead me to take my struggle with compulsive/addictive behavior to Heavenly Father and to His Son. My perception was that they would help me with “good girl” problems, like having and earache, loosing my keys, or remembering something I had spent hours learning. On the other hand, those struggles that represented my weaknesses or out right sins were up to me to take care of. I was to fix myself so I would be worthy of their love and acceptance.
Like the ten year who old worked over that painted pot of flowers, watching the beautiful colors turn more brown with every stroke, seeing it go from bad to worse until the paper nearly came apart, I worked on my self destructive behaviors until my heart for “self” improvement was broken. There were two options set before me. I could give up, or I could experiment with the idea that God is all loving, all knowing, and all-powerful and that His desire is to extend to me all the love, direction, and power necessary to clean up all messes of my own making.
I chose to practice believing in this very personal loving powerful God and to keep my eyes open for evidence of the reality of such a Being. Today I can testify of His reality. He does not resemble my fifth grade teacher (or my perception of her), bless her soul. He was willing to sacrifice His life for my success.
If we allow Jesus Christ to be the Master, He has all the paper, paint, and patience it will take to help us produce a Masterpiece! A “Master-piece” is anything we are able to do or create or become through the enabling power of our Master. And in the end we will find that His work and glory has been to make you and I His “Master-piece!”
By Nannette W.
Posted, Thursday, December 11, 2008
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