I’ve experienced a revolution. It was peaceful, and so quiet you could be forgiven for not noticing it at all, but it was real…
In the weeks before and after Easter I was really struggling: feeling something deep and painful but not really able to work out what was wrong. And then, as I was fighting/ grumbling/ praying with God, he showed me this picture of a bottle – knocked over and with bright orange liquid spilling out from it and running out over the ground.
‘Yes!’ I thought, ‘THAT IS EXACTLY how I am feeling right now’.
Let me explain:
I always associate the colour orange with the future. (This is almost certainly due to the mobile phone advertising slogan that played right through my twenties: ‘the future’s bright, the future’s orange’) So for me this picture represented a lost or wasted future, or more specifically, the vanishing of the future I thought I was going to have when I was twenty-something.
It started on a day when I’d mislaid my ipod and picked up the very old one that our youngest uses as her ‘storyteller’. (I can deal with the pain of the treadmill, but not with the musical choices of the young guy who runs the gym!) On it I found a playlist that dates back almost fifteen years, full of songs which reminded me of the years before that. Music sometimes has the power to transport us back in time, and that playlist of nineties worship songs (anyone else remember History Maker?) took me right back to my mid-twenties, just married, totally sure of my calling to preach God’s word, and excited about what the future would hold…
There are days when it feels like the decision we made to leave home and move to Cyprus has had the effect of kicking over the bottle of my ‘future’ and seeing most of it be spilled out and lost. A lot of what I had hoped for and expected, particularly in terms of ministry, has been poured out, and those precious years have been wasted. Of course in those moments I conveniently forget the part where we heard God tell us to come here, and all the great things that have happened in those years, but the hard part of this picture is that in some senses it is entirely true. There has been a sacrifice of some things that I loved and that I felt sure God had called me into doing, and that hurts.
So I’ve been (slightly angrily) trying to avoid thinking about this picture for about a month, finding reasons not to have time to paint it.
But it wasn’t going away… so here it is.
And as soon as I saw my overturned bottle on paper, with the golden orange liquid flowing out of it, I suddenly realised how much it’s like the one I painted of Mary of Bethany as she poured out perfumed oil on Jesus’s feet. And I could hear my words echoed in those of Judas when he objected to the valuable nard being wasted when it could have been used for something ‘useful’.
‘and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume’
The picture looks different to me know. It’s still true, but there has been a revolution in my heart, and I can now see the beauty in it, sense the fragrance of it. It’s still shot through with pain, but I understand something I didn’t understand before, something that I can’t quite pin down in words, but which changes the way I see the sacrifice.
I wonder if you need a revolution?
Do you need God to come in and change the way you see something? Maybe today is a good day to ask him to reveal that something to you, and to show you how he sees it differently. Perhaps his perspective is what you need to restore hope and courage to your heart.