It’s been a while, but that doesn’t have anything to do with lack of things to share. My eyes are being opened and my heart is being moved and shaped by the humbling signs that God is in everything. Eh-Vreee-Thing. I don’t just think it because that’s what you’re supposed to say when you believe, but I say it because he has revealed himself in ways that have woken up my mind from dark depths of a routine life. The one where you can’t tell the difference between Monday and Thursday because its all mushed into one-and-the-same. He is, at the moment gripping my heart with His hands so that I might stop turning from Him and begin to open my eyes to the beauty that is Him among my every simple day.
My art class is full of people, mostly women who gather on tuesday mornings to let their creativity expand into the limitless world of imagination. Then ceramics class on wednesday nights, where your age, gender, or cultural background doesn’t seem to matter, as long as you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, and leaving the class with bits of it under your fingernails, or smeared on your face.
Be it paintbrush or clay, the lessons are the same. Not just art lessons, but life lessons. It’s all about Layers.
I sat there with a big lump of clay in front of me. “today we’re making masks”, she said. “Pick your design and just go for it”. Uhh, what? Right, somewhere inside this messy grey brick there is a mask waiting to come out. if only I could find it… “So you start with a base”, she says. “And after that you can add more clay on top”, you can always add and take away. The photo I had in front of me was textured and complex, and the base of my creation was flat as the Manitoba farm land. Overwhelmed and lacking the much-needed patience I trudged on, literally dragging my fingers through the clay every step of the way.
If Cyprus has taught me one thing that I will forever carry in my soul, it is “siga siga” – slowly slowly. Piece by piece I started to add clay. Layer by layer, never all at once. I didn’t realize until I was about half way through that the project is manageable only if and when it is taken step by step. My eyes can only see so much at a time, and even then, my hands can handle even less while they are still learning to crawl.
So, one by one, first the left cheek, then the right. The mouth, the nose, and the teeth. Layer by layer my creation was turning into something that resembled the image I saw on the page in front of me. And it wasn’t until the very end of the project, when all of the layers began to form a whole, that I started to fall in love with my mask. It is a mediocre mask at best, but it was frustrating to make and I honestly didn’t feel like I would ever be able to finish it based on the large amounts of anxiety I felt every time I sat back down in my chair after giving myself a 30 second “be-patient-with-yourself” pep talk, and tried to tackle the overwhelming task once more.
What came out of the fire was the awesome face of a goofy monster that I am totally and completely in love with. Could I sell it for money? Maybe to my grandma, because even though there are cracks all over it due my lack of ceramic understanding and ability, grandmas are always willing to love the stuff you make just as much as they love you.
Then there are the layer that come in the paint. We moved on from pastels and started working with oil paints. What I’ve learned is the thing that makes ‘pictures’ look real, is the amount of shading and contrast that is used. You are never allowed to just use pink. There MUST be four different kinds of pink, or else your painting just looks flat. The same thing happened when I started my last painting. I had been working for about 20 minutes, pulling colours from every which way, adding white, then more orange, but it’s still not quite right, needs more yellow… there. Got it. 1/16th of the way done. Yikes. Even then, I finished my painting, all the blending done and the colours mixed just how I wanted them, only to hear my teacher say “great, now you’ve just gotta do it all again and then you’re finished. The second layer of oil paints is what really makes it come alive.” -Face Palm- Do it again? You’re joking right? I just spent a freaking week meticulously blending all of the colours together, and now I’m just supposed to paint over top of them and do it the exact same way?
But that’s the beauty of the art I guess. It’s up to me how I want my painting to look. If I want it to be a nice painting with pretty colours, I can leave it how it is. But if I want to give it life, if I want it to achieve the beauty that it is capable of, well honestly that is a beauty that is more than one layer deep.
Any mask moulded with only one layer of clay lacks texture, lacks detail, lacks any sort of depth. Any painting blended with only one layer of paint is just scratching the surface of beauty. There is no breath of life inside, it’s missing the mark on it’s true potential.
The most amazing thing about all of this is Jesus works in the exact same way. It’s easy enough to know God on the surface, one layer deep. Maybe you have some friends like this. The ones you like being around but you don’t really let them in past what you made for dinner last night. But the thing is, God doesn’t just want the surface you. He.Wants.It.All. Sometimes it is scary to think about letting anything get beneath our protective shells. The twists and turns of life that leave us bruised and scarred make us think twice before letting anyone see what’s really going on in there. But the beauty of this comes in the healing that Jesus brings, and He heals, and it’s real. But the process is slow. Piece by piece. One layer at a time. As we peel back one layer- give it up to God, and please oh please just let Him love you. That person that always takes, and never gives, one layer off. That lie that satan told you about not being good enough, the one you’ve believed for far too long, one more layer deep. There is nothing that you could show God that He hasn’t already seen. You want to talk about pain, well man he’s already felt it. In every muscle, in every pore, he felt the pain because He didn’t want you to have to feel it alone. Let Him get to know the real you, so that you can get to know the real Him. One layer deeper, but another one exposed in the process, because this stuff is deep, and it doesn’t really ever stop. But the deeper we go, the more depth we find. And just like those oil paints, more layers means more life. As we let God go deeper we start to be beautiful from the inside out. That surface beauty that we cling to so dearly will start to fade away, and maybe, just maybe, out of the rubble will come a person who knows they are the perfect creation of a potter that moulded His clay exactly the way He intended to.