When I was around 7 years old, I saw an advertisement for drawing lessons on the television. I immediately imagined myself as an accomplished artist and the only thing standing in my way was the fact that I didn't have those lessons. And so I begged to be allowed to send off for the first packet.
This was in the days where you had to send an inquiry to the address on the television screen and then wait days (or weeks) to get a response. I finally got permission so I sealed my envelope, smoothed a stamp onto the top right corner, and took it to the small post office near our apartment complex. My letter was soon on the way and only time stood between me and the launch of my art career.
I honestly have no idea how long it took for that first lesson packet to arrive but I can tell you it felt like one day shy of forever. When I finally had it in my hands, I hurried to find the perfect place to sit down and do the first lesson. Years later, I can testify that I did NOT get my money's worth in the deal, but I didn't know that at the time.
Essentially, the lesson had a picture of a turtle with a ball cap on and I was supposed to look at it and draw what I saw. I did exactly that, with painstaking care, and I soon had before me a masterpiece that closely resembled the example. I knew I was onto something. I’d found my calling as a starry-eyed 7 year old.
But then something happened and I never got the second lesson. My dream died; a sad and abrupt ending to what might have been.
I had no idea then that abstract art would storm the scene or I might have given it another shot, even without the prized lessons. But alas, I went on to have 8 babies, and take in 25
more beyond that, which meant art suddenly took on all sorts of forms.
One artistic medium that I’ve spent years trying to master is that of being busy with the right sort of things. It flies in the face of conventional thinking. Because in a world that’s moving so fast it’s threatening to throw us off the rails, people are screaming to slow down. And rightly so. But the enemy has never had any intention of allowing that pause in activity to be used for good.
He intends it’s to be used only for evil. Because if we un-busy ourselves from the things that tangled our time, he’ll be right there to catch us in the snare of idleness.
Consider for a moment the various forms of being busy compared with the various forms of art, beginning with abstract. Some paintings I've seen, that have supposedly sold for thousands of dollars, look like someone literally loaded a brush with paint and started splaying it across a canvas. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some eyes see chaos as beautiful.
I do not.
Likewise, if I allow the abstract art of busy-ness to have its way, I'll be running hither and yon, doing things that don't serve me, my family, my ministry, or my God. I may look accomplished and people who view chaos as beautiful may think well of me. But I'll wear down, burn out, and go belly up before I ever get to the things that really matter. There will be no time.
However, if my day is full to overflowing with acts of worship (like prayer walking, Bible Study, and intentional communion with God) and relationship building (like spending time investing in those in front of and around me) and service to others (like helping those in need of help, when God makes clear that's what He's asking) then the full day isn't abstract randomness.
It's worship. And it's good when the worship of God becomes a way of life that consumes us.
This evening we piled into our newly repaired van and bumped along the road into town with some of the kids. We try to give them as normal a family life as we possibly can and that includes spending time together in ways that let them know they matter. Especially when you're one child out of 33, it's important that you feel seen and heard. The kids like to go into the walking street market on the weekends and so we have a rotation and we go once or twice a month. We give them each about the equivalent of one US dollar to spend. It's nothing special but it makes them feel special and that's what we're after.
Tonight, as we drove between the rice paddies on one side and the canal on the other, Yim asked if Hannah could turn on some of the pretty music that she has on her phone. While she fumbled with that, trying to get it to pipe in through the speakers, I started to sing. My short-lived days as a sketch artist clearly didn't die so that my chance of being a musical artist might be born. Not in the least. But I sang Jesus Loves Me and soon the car was full of sweet voices joining me for the chorus.
There we were, in our beloved creaky van, singing together about Jesus as we drove down a dark road in Thailand. Moments before I was talking myself down from wanting to throw a fit because all I wanted was to go hide on my bed. I had no desire to take a van full of kids to town. I wanted to be un-busy so I could just be. But God either knew I wouldn't steward that free-time well, or He knew I wouldn't want to miss that hour making memories with these amazing kids He's placed in my life.
I'm going to bed tired but it's from the right kind of busy. The kind that seeps into your soul and soothes the selfish places that deplete not only energy, but vitality.
God only asks us to be poured out because He's on standby with the refill and there's nothing at all abstract about that.