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The Art of Compassion

A few months ago, my husband, Blake, and I were at a friend’s house for dinner, and I commented on a few of her original paintings I hadn’t seen before. Our friend is a very talented artist, and she was telling me about a new technique she was experimenting with — cold wax and oil painting with only scrapers, spatulas, and palette knives; no brushes! I was immediately intrigued and I told her I wanted to give it a try. So, before we left her house that night, we set a date to paint together!

I hadn’t painted in almost 25 years. Looking back, I think that’s because I was never really confident enough declare myself a ‘real’ artist; I never felt ‘good enough.’ But, the next weekend, I bravely showed up at my friend’s house with a blank canvas, on an unusually warm January day, and spent the afternoon painting in her driveway. I was afraid to spread any paint on my pretty white canvas, but finally mixed some soft hues of blues and greens and before I knew it, I had spent 2 hours mixing colors, spreading paint and building layers upon layers of color and texture, creating interesting shapes that hinted at a mountain landscape.

I was fully immersed in the process and I loved it. Part of what made this experience so freeing for me is that I had no expectations going into it, except to enjoy learning something new and allow myself enough grace to make a mistake or mix the wrong shade of paint. I knew my painting wasn’t going to be perfect, and I was okay with that.

Later that week, I happened upon a podcast by Lysa Terkeurst. She read a chapter from her new book, It’s Not Supposed To Be This Way. The chapter is titled “Paintings and People,” and she shares how her own experience with painting taught her that overcoming fear and letting go of the lie that “I’m not good enough” is what allowed her to ‘show up’ as an artist and really see things through the lens of compassion. She said, “To be the painter, I would both display my ability but even more scary, expose my inability.”

Yes! This is exactly what I was experiencing in my painting journey. As I read more, her words really spoke to me, and I hope they encourage you.

Lysa writes~

A few weeks into my painting adventure, my house was filled with canvasses and I decided it was time to go to an art show to look at other people’s work. Now that I dared to be a painter, I felt I could break secrecy with another painter. I knew her terror, her angst, her disappointment, her wondering if she was good enough. She didn’t need to worry about keeping all that a secret, because I wouldn’t require her paintings to live up to any unrealistic expectations. I would bring compassion. I now knew to stand before each painting with nothing but love, amazement, and delight.

“Therefore as God’s chosen people, wholly and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

We are to put on each of these things every day like a painter puts on color he knows will connect his creation with others. God wants us, His creation, to connect with others and bring them light and life with the brush strokes of compassion.

She adds~

The only way to gain more of this compassion is to pick up the paintbrush for yourself and sit in the seat of your own suffering. If you’ve ever experienced an unexpected darkness, a silence and stillness you aren’t used to, know that these hard times, these devastating disappointments, these seasons of suffering are not for nothing. They will grow you. They will shape you. They will allow you to experience God’s comfort and compassion and you will find life-giving purpose and meaning when you allow God to take your painful experiences and comfort others. You will be able to share a unique hope because you experienced these things.

The families we are about to serve are hurting.  They are scared and lonely, tired and weary. They need hope. They need compassion. They need you.

The good news is — you are here. You showed up.

So this weekend, my challenge to each of you is to declare yourself an artist and pick up the paintbrush; or in our case, pick up a backpack or a young child, or push a wheelchair. Get wet with paint; or rather, get wet on water rides and sticky with ice cream. Put the brush to the canvas; make your mark with these families. Go enlighten them with your color and your creativity; make memories that will last a lifetime. Be encouraged.

This weekend, you are walking the way of the artist. You are showing up with compassion. I pray for whatever is about to come to life on your canvas this weekend. On Monday morning, it will be on full display for everyone to see! Your blank canvas will be transformed into a slideshow full of beautiful images, tender moments, and stories all pointing to the glory of God, the Almighty Creator and Master Artist.

Dena Austin is Inheritance of Hope’s Legacy Retreat® & Venue Coordinator.  She originally shared this devotional with the April 2019 Orlando Legacy Retreat® team.  Read more Inheritance of Hope blogposts >>