In a college known for its jazz music program, singers and instrumentalists scatting and improvising through their 16 bars on a skeletal framework, I was one of those who liked to follow what was on the page. I could read anything you put in front of me, but I couldn’t ad lib. And in a class with a jazz professor, I was jokingly called a “paint-by-numbers” musician. It was not a compliment.
That’s exactly what I am. I like bowing to the Beethovens, Bachs, and Mozarts of the world, allowing their genius to give me notes to sing, and rhythms to count. The phrases are planned, perfected, and I am only to interpret and give them voice. Compared to the abandon of a jazz musician, making it up as they go along, classical is safe. Each color with its own number. I must simply fill in.
This is me. I am safe. I like to have boundaries to inhabit and little geometric shapes to dutifully keep me in the lines. I like being told what to play and what to say and what to do. The “shoulds” and “ought-tos” of life, like the numbered spaces on the paint-by-number canvas, or the little black notes on the staff, give me a script to follow and keep me comfortable.
But this paint-by-numbers life has begun to yellow at the corners. It is tiresome and false and based on lies about where my worth originates. I want to be messy and color outside the lines and be free of the chains of my rule-following nature.
I want to be this:
Instead of this:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and
your life is now hidden with God in Christ.“
Colossians 2:13-14, 3:1-3
On this journey I am beginning to reinvent what I want to be, basing it on grace instead of rules. Our God is one of completion, of finishing the good work He started, but also of new beginnings, and restoration of things broken.
As my children often do, I want to crumple up the artwork in front of me and begin again, with bolder brush strokes and wild colors that don’t match. I want to stop waiting for someone to tell me where and when and how, and instead just make it up as I go along, following in the footsteps of Jesus, who turned convention on its ear and didn’t care who he offended, as long as he did the work of the Father.
Messy. And free. Being instead of always doing. Not by numbers, but by heart and faith.
A repost from the archives…
I’m off on an art retreat weekend, planning to get messy
and express all that bubbles up!
Be sure to visit next week when I’ll be joining up
with the iHomeschool Network, sharing
5 Days of Great Family Games!