My husband and I recently launched a missional art venture that is exciting (!!!!!), very new and I am praying God uses it to stir many hearts toward Himself! It is called Bridges to Grace (bridgestograce.com). Check it out if you haven't had a chance :) It has truly been a gift to work on this so far!
One question I have gotten a lot of "so you paint these?" I am totally not offended nor surprised by this question. Some people are really baffled that this came from our hands. I am not a trained painter, nor is Dillon (although he has a real artistic background, but that's neither here nor there). We haven't studied art (are you losing confidence in us yet??), we have never felt compelled to produce art much less sell it in the past. I get it. Why art? Well, I'll start with this: I would have never guessed God would have allowed so many words flow out of me onto a page about His work in my life...I never considered myself a writer. Now I realize, rather, I wasn't a writer until Jesus completely captured my heart because turns out I am if I am sharing about Him. And it has happened again: Dillon nor I have ever in a million years thought we'd launch a business around painting...but here we are, painting because it is for Him. I believe God has given us avenues that are unexpected for both of us to share His grace and love; not because of what we are capable of, but because of what HE is capable of and the fact that we are just here waiting for Him to use us.
It makes me think of "Here I am"; one of my favorite and curious statements I have found in the Bible. These three words are used in response to God calling some of the most well-known people of faith the Lord has used to accomplish His purposes. The people themselves aren't the thing to awe at, though...it's the heart posture that allows them to say "Here I am" - the willingness to lay down their own will, and trust God's - then the work God can do through a surrendered heart. This phrase has encouraged me that God can work through anyone who just surrenders their own desires to His - even Dillon and me.
While I won't take you through all the accounts of "Here I am", here a a couple to paint the picture:
Let's take a look at Abraham (Gen 22:1, 11). He had waited decades for a promised son. A promise that would be the beginning of a multiplication of descendants for Abraham - the beginning of the nation of Israel; and more so this promise that would initiate a blood line to bless the nations of the world (we know now that this started the line to Jesus where God's purposes to save and redeem are completely fulfilled). This much anticipated promise doesn't make sense when we see it from a worldly lens because it was a promise of descendants made to an old man and barren woman, but God - as always - followed through faithfully on this promise. And after all the waiting, and all the joy of receiving this son, God the Father asks this loving father of this long-awaited, promised boy to sacrifice him. Abraham was asked to kill Isaac (which he doesn't in case you don't know the ending...would hate to keep you wondering! Read more here). Twice in this particular part of Abraham's life, we learn that his response to God is "Here I am".
While I understand this demand on Abraham can be confusing and make us perceive God as random, unpredictable or even unloving to ask such a thing, this incredible part in history shows me something beautiful about God's pursuit of our heart. The truth of the matter is, God wanted Abraham to trust Him. He wanted Abraham's entire heart; He wanted to make sure the promise itself wasn't worshiped over the Promise-Maker. If we miss the point and misread God, we lose the treasure. The treasure isn't the thing God can give us; rather, it's God alone that is our treasure and His goodness won't let us stop short of realizing that. Sometimes this looks like Him asking us to sacrifice things that are getting in the way - that may have taken over our heart. But ultimately, when God calls us to let go of something or step into something, the most beautiful answer I can imagine is with a fully-trusting, surrendered will and a "Here I am."
Moses might be the most relatable "Here I am" to me personally. (Ex 3:4). God is calling Moses to something extremely hard: not unlike what we see above with Abraham. He is to speak to the rulers of Egypt in order to free the Jewish people from slavery. Moses responds to God's call with "Here I am", but unlike Abraham, goes naval-gazed (looking at himself and what he has to offer to the task) so is overcome with feelings of doubt and inadequacies . He didn't feel like he has the skill of communication needed to accomplish what God is asking Him to do. He enters willingly to the call, but quickly finds focus on his own ability which creates doubt - instead of looking at the One who has called Him to do it. (Read the whole back and forth between God and Moses here).
For me, this strikes a cord: I say "Here I am" and I truly want that surrendered posture. I pray it all the time for Him to use me for His purposes. For God to tear down my sense of ownership over my life, remind me that I was bought with a price and I joyfully owe all to Christ. I go with open hands, but equally see what He has put in front of me and look immediately at myself for the strength to accomplish it. Whether that is teaching my children, sharing the Gospel with a friend, stepping into a hard situation with compassion and truth...you name any hard thing and it's likely my first reaction to focus inward. I am a lot like Moses: "Here I am", but then I quickly look at myself and my own capabilities and shortcomings and doubts...instead of the power and grace and love of the One who called me to do it. I focus on my limitations or even my own strengths instead of remembering my strength comes from Jesus.
All this reminds me that the very thing that is required of me is dependency; to fully lean and depend and trust in the strength and power of Christ to accomplish His purposes. And He absolutely can use me. And I know He can because it's not about ME, it's not of me. It's of God, and it's all about Him. So maybe He uses me in the way I type away - amazed at His beautiful truth - on a keyboard, maybe it's in a way I love another person because I know His love...and you know what...maybe it's through a brush stroke on a piece of paper that we are calling "art".
So God..."Here I am."