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  • Writer's pictureBeth Hildebrand

The Simple Art Of Being

Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one.” Stella Adler

When I stepped into Catrina’s Tequila and Taco Bar that night, little did I know what “embrace the joy while suffering” meant.  When I left a few hours later, I did.

It had been two, long years.

It felt too long and the only longing I had was to feel, see, and hear Jesus again.

We all go through seasons in life where we feel like we have been beat down and our souls crushed.

It can be the loss of a loved one, losing a job, fighting an ongoing illness.  It can be a change in relationships, feeling overwhelmed, stagnant, or stressed.  It can be aging parents, disrespectful children, gaining weight or losing your mind. It can be an addiction, anxiety, or a chemical imbalance in the brain called depression. It can be a world-wide pandemic, being quarantined to your home, or the pain of racial injustice.

Those winter seasons of life can happen occasionally, or several at the same time.  God never said we will have a perfect life while living here on this blue and green ball on this side of heaven.

When our good feelings become numb, unlikable feelings weasel their way in and make themselves comfortable and cozy deep inside if you let them. I let them. I don’t recall welcoming them in, but I also don’t recall kicking them out either during that difficult season.

Then there was one day. The day I went to the restaurant and bar. That afternoon I was able to reconnect with a dear friend whom I had not seen in several months. It did not take long to expose our bleeding hearts. We were raw, telling each other our gut-honest feelings of darkness and near-death hope. We talked about losing and loss, about questions and doubt, about the comfort of hiding yet at the same time how it was loneliness. We had different grievances but mixed-together we understood how each other felt.

When our time ran out, my friend squeezed my shoulders with her warm hands, smiled at me as she looked me in the eyes and said, “Today we experienced the joy in the fellowship of suffering.  Embrace it.

Embrace the joy the Holy Spirit gives us while we’re in the midst of suffering. (I Thes. 1:6)

Now I say this to you, today, friend: Embrace the joy the Holy Spirit gives you when you’re struggling or suffering.

Embrace how Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross. (Hebrews 12:2)

Embrace how we can share abundantly in Christ’s suffering, so through Him we can share abundantly in comfort, too.  (2 Cor. 1:5)

Then that same evening, I celebrated the birthday of another sweet friend with a group of close girlfriends at a Paint Nite party.  I had never been to one but had always wanted to.  When I walked in the room, my heart skipped a beat and a smile grew on my face and I do not think it went away until I fell asleep that night. 

Even though I have a degree in Art, I had not used the medium paint very much. My specialty involved ink, charcoal, and chalk pastels. But it’s not the medium that matters at all. It’s not important if you have a degree in art or not. It’s OK if you’re not a crafty person who spends most of your spending money at Hobby Lobby. That night, it was the art of simply being. It was embracing the joy the Holy Spirit gave me while I was struggling. I had not felt alive in a long time but with a blank canvas in front of me, four, paint-speckled and stained paintbrushes, and a white, Styrofoam plate with puddles of red, yellow, blue and white acrylic paint on it, I came back to life.

The first strokes on the canvas of light blue paint for the sky made me feel like I was flying in it.   Adding pale pink, pastel yellow, and white for the clouds seemed to magically appear.  We were to stop painting to let the sky dry before beginning the next section of the painting, but it was hard not to!  The next instruction was to make a green color and start making strokes of green, starting the brush as the bottom of the canvas and stroke upward.  When finished with those, add yellow, orange, even blue, and purple.  It was an explosion of color and then the flowers popped on the canvas. 

Creating my own colors, the smoothness of running a brush up the canvas that left a colorful blade of grass behind it was so simple yet so fulfilling.  It felt like Someone was pouring, almost dumping, colors of happiness, hope, joy, and resurrection into my empty and blank soul.

I agree with the words of artist Paul Cezanne: “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.”

The field of flowers I painted was no masterpiece, but it did not lack any emotion. Enthusiastic. Light-hearted. Happy and joy-full. They were all rekindled. Another Paul you may know wrote these words, For we are God’s masterpieces. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph. 2:10)

I embraced every second of it, and still think of that night often. Simply being with friends, being given a blank canvas and some paint, being refreshed with hope and joy are what I embraced.

It was that evening when I stepped into Catrina’s Tequila and Taco Bar, in a make-shift art studio, where I came back to life. Through a Paint Nite party, I experience the joy in fellowship in suffering. And I embraced it. It’s what God used to resuscitate me, and He can for you as well in the unique and specific way that will breathe life back into you.

In her book A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman writes,

“The upside-down mystery of God is that you can still be a miracle-gift even when you have no idea where your giftedness comes from, even when all you can bear to do is know you are loved and live like it’s true.  You are art and you make art, but you are not your art.  You are God’s art.  As you continue to bend your ear toward the deep desires of your heart, trust that God is intuitive enough to move in and through you no matter your fear of insecurity”….and I add suffering. 

May you embrace joy in your life whether it’s through art, music, an image you see on Instagram, a conversation with a friend, a night out with your girlfriends, a time of prayer, journaling, caring for your aging parent, reading a story to your child even though you’re exhausted and want to go to bed. May you embrace joy, the joy the Holy Spirit gives you while you’re in the midst of struggling when you’re feeling discouraged, uncertain about the future, questioning your purpose, or not hearing God’s voice.  May you believe that YOU, my friend, are God’s art.  You are His beautiful masterpiece.  And always will be.

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