Painting The Posts

I am not an artist but sometimes I like to dabble with paint and canvas; especially when I cannot find words to express how I feel. One particular day about ten years ago, I was wordless before God. Confused about what he was supposed to be doing and struggling to work through some tough stuff that had turned up.

I felt as if I was neck-deep in a quagmire, that challenging place where doubts and fears swirl. A place that felt scary and lonely and I had lost my usual route map to navigate back to any place of peace. All I could do was hang on by my fingernails to keep me from going under.

A classic example of the kind of situation that prompts the painting. My painting is therapeutic, messy and rarely leads to anything worth keeping as actual finished artwork; but the process of being vaguely creative can be cathartic. On that particular day, it was as if God himself was with me, inspiring and guiding the imagery that was forming in my mind’s eye as I started to squeeze the acrylics on the palette.

I started painting the bottom left corner, a place that was dark and miry, a swamp of unknowing with weeds of doubt. But as I painted I noticed a post in the swamp. It was the kind of post often found on causeways where at low tide an island is joined to the mainland. The kind of post that sticks deep into the mud so that at high tide it pokes up high enough above the incoming sea to mark out the hidden route.

This rough wooden post was in my swamp- it spoke of the truth I could hold on to, the absolute truth that I do believe in God. Whoever, however he might be. A God who has always been with me, even when I did not acknowledge or recognise him.  A holy God who belies my understanding yet nevertheless, is real. And if I could just hang onto this truth in my swamp, then the swirling sea couldn’t sweep away all my faith.

From that vantage point, I realised there was another post coming into view. The second post was real enough and just close enough to reach. This second post was a post of truth that spoke about the reality of Jesus. The man who walked this earth who was God himself in human form. The embodiment of God made known to me so many times in my life; how could I forget those times!     If I could, just hang on to that second wooden post sticking up out the mud; then I would not drown for I trusted he was with me.

I hung on for dear life, reminded of the cross on which he hung. A real historical wooden cross, stuck into real ground in a real place in Jerusalem. And the truth of that took me forward to the third post appearing through the gloom. I did believe with both my head and heart that the cross and resurrection happened. That was something I knew that I knew in my deepest being, and that his act of love and sacrifice was not wasted on me.

I found it easier to reach for the fourth post, the post that God’s Holy Spirit was real and personal, that had encouraged and empowered me so often that I knew he would not stop now. As I remembered that truth, I could see the next posts, which seemed placed much closer together.  These posts were leading me through the quagmire out of the darkness into a pool of light.

From post by post, I made my way. Yes, God has called me into his family. Yes, he was with me in those hardest of times. Yes, he has promised to never leave or forsake me. Truth by truth to hold on to, through the mire, to a place where the mud had gone. I could see now that the posts were stuck into a bedrock, firm enough to stand on without sinking.

Circumstances had not actually changed, but in that new dawning light, I was able to place my struggles into a bigger picture. I had recalibrated my perspective with a glimpse of God’s perspective allowing me to see more clearly. Each post of truth had stayed firm, even as fears and distractions swamped the bedrock of faith that usually underpinned all that I knew, but so easily forgot.

The picture I painted that day would not win any art prize, and I completed it almost without thinking. It evolved through tears and heartache, a visual parable to show there is always a way out of the mud. It hangs on my study wall as a reminder that those posts of truth are set into a solid bedrock of faith, forever.