This summer my daughter and I are focusing on art. She was really hoping to have an art class during the school year, but wound up in other awesome electives instead. This week we are engaging with landscape art. I have a friend who is a painter and she is hosting us in her backyard, teaching Paige how to think about perspective, light, and lines.
As I’ve watched a scene emerge from a blank canvas I’ve been thinking about learning by trying, which is basically my ministry philosophy. My friend has been painting for years, so she intuitively knows how to shadow a hillside or bring clouds to life. For my daughter this painting is about experiential learning. When she started mixing colors she was conservative in her approach, yielding a tiny batch of a particular shade. She struggled to achieve her design with such little paint, so began to be more and more liberal with her portions as she mixed.
My friend could have simply told her to use more, but letting Paige figure it our for herself is a much more rewarding experience for everyone in the end. My daughter did get frustrated at points. This was when Nancy, who is a good teacher, began to ask questions. “What do you think will happen if you do that?” “What do you see?” She also was encouraging, saying things like, “You are developing such a great eye.” or “I love the movement in this section.”
I do not expect Paige’s painting to be a masterpiece. Just like her first poem or song or story wasn’t. Just like my first attempt at cooking without a recipe or my first sermon wasn’t. What Paige makes will be beautiful. It will be full of color and insight and love. This work will give her an experience to think back on and she will learn things from these days of painting that go far beyond the finished product. My first sermon was beautiful. And every time I preach a sermon that stirs someone’s soul I know that part of that first sermon is there. I have learned and grown from that first time and those experiences and lessons continue to shape me to this day.
God is like this. We are given talents and gifts, we are given opportunities and chances to grow. We are encouraged and stirred to reflect. Our lives are beautiful. Our experiments are beautiful. And over time, if we keep trying and keep learning, if we keep letting our teachers guide us and support us we master the skills and learn the nuances of being who God made us to be.
So I hope this summer you will be like Paige and try new things. I hope you see the beauty in your attempts and trust in the process to reveal something wonderful and rich about who God has made you to be.