Painting: Your Leaves Will Not Wither (for the Williams)
I touch the leaves with my fingertips, the raindrops slip from the leaves down my hand. This is real. These colors I’m looking at, this moment that God has given me, this breath inside my lungs.
I walk further along the trail, attempting to soak in the moment. Trying to fathom the wonder of time, of life. I feel the weight of this breath that we call the present; this one tiny blip in time where reality is able to shift and change before it is forever locked in the chasm of the past.
I walk slowly, lost in these thoughts. And I realize how I neglect the present. All the time. Usually, in favor of the dreams in my head.
I have always been a dreamer. Stories play out in vivid colors inside my mind. I often walk through the day oblivious to my surroundings because the narrative in my head feels more real than the world around me.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not telling you that being a dreamer is a bad thing. Where would the world be without those who dare to imagine something that doesn’t yet exist? How would any progress be made if none were willing to break the glass of what we see with our eyes and dare to imagine something more, something different. The Lord has so graciously given us minds and imaginations to think, reason, and create. We reflect His nature in this.
However, like anything else, being a dreamer can be used for good or ill and requires that ambiguous concept we refer to as “balance.”
When someone has a vision for what the future could look like, and takes action toward that vision, it can deeply impact people’s lives. On the other hand, I often find myself daydreaming in order to escape my circumstances. I don’t act on these dreams, I use them as a distraction, and in result, neglect the opportunities and responsibilities where God has placed me in the present.
This is where I found myself in the process of creating this painting. I’d been wrestling with longing for things the Lord has not given me in this season of my life. Old wounds were coming to the surface and causing chaos in my mood and emotions. So, I used the imagination the Lord gave me to escape the reality that He had sovereignly placed me in.
A couple of days after completing this painting, I went for a walk in the woods. My emotions were in chaos and my mind was confused. I needed clarity; I needed to hear from the Lord. It was pouring rain; I ran into the oncoming droplets and they soaked me. As the rain calmed, so did my pace, and I began to walk. My mind raced with a thousand thoughts, but a few specific ones rose clear through the fog of my mind.
By and large, I had been living to escape, living to survive. I took in the scenery around me, bright green leaves freshly washed in the summer rain. I listened to the rustle of the leaves, smelled the aroma of growing things, of life all around me. I touched the still-wet leaves.
This is real.
I took in the moment God had given me. And I reflected on how seldom I do that. I live in both in the pain of my past and the hopes for my future, yet rarely in the present. And the present is so, so important. The present is the realm where life happens.
As Jon Foreman so eloquently said: “Today is all you’ve got now. Today is all you’ll ever had.”
I believe that dreams are meant for the present. For a dream to ultimately be of effect, it must be acted upon. This is what separates what we refer to as “vision” from idle fantasy.
Instead of using my imagination to escape difficult circumstances, what if I dared to imagine how God’s kingdom might reign in the midst of them? And what if I acted upon that dream and the Kingdom reigned where darkness once ruled? This would turn my dreams into an actual means of change; dreams that bear fruit for the Kingdom.
This is what I want for my life, and for the imagination and creativity God has given me. I want Christ to be honored. I want to see a glimpse of the Kingdom to come. And I don’t want to waste more moments escaping my reality when I could be seeing and knowing Christ in the middle of it.
All this sounds lovely; and it is. However, the part I’ve been wrestling with since I took that walk is where the rubber meets the road. When I’m tired and lonely, I must fight the temptation to imagine myself in different circumstances. Instead, I must fight to know the comfort of Christ. And when the pain weighs so heavy on my heart, instead of merely distracting myself, I must choose to feel it. To lean on Christ, to seek to see Him in the midst of the pain instead of numbing it; instead of escaping. This is all so hard.
But every day is precious, even the hard ones.
“What if I sat right here and took you in/ without the fear and loved you whole/ without the flight and didn’t try to pass this cup/…This challenging reality is better than fear or fantasy.” – Sara Groves (This Cup)
A note on this painting: This painting was such a privilege to create. Not because I painted it on a window or am proud of how it turned out (which I am), but because of who I got to paint it for. I painted this as a commission for a family that I love dearly. They have walked with me through really difficult times, they opened their home to me for months, and they have have pointed me to Christ in so many ways.
To have the opportunity to capture a picture from Mrs. Christy’s mind and make that a reality was such a blessing. She hopes for this painting to be a visual for her sweet girls of a life firmly planted in the Lord and in His word. It was also Mrs. Christy’s idea to paint it on a window (which I was a little hesitant about at first), and her excitement about about the finished project was the best encouragement I could have asked for.
A note for the Williams: I love y’all more than I know how to say. Thank you so much!