True Lessons-Learned Stories
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by Deb Matthews

Welcome! Here's another true lessons learned story from my collection of things that have really happened to me (including stories about miracles, angels, Civil Air Patrol and God's love and blessings). This is a reflection on how God can take the 'mistakes' in our lives and turn them into something beautiful!

An Artist's "Mistakes"
Copyright © 1999 by Debra K. Matthews. All rights reserved

I took away one major lesson from my eighth grade art class. It's the only thing I remember from that entire school year, yet it has stayed with me over all the years since. I don't remember a single thing we made in class, or even if we worked with brushes, or pencils, or charcoal, or made something in clay. All I remember is my teacher telling us, "A good artist can make something out of any mistake."

Over the years I've proved that statement time and again. I've seen it true in every type of "art" that I've tried. I've always been able to find something to do with my artwork mistakes.

I remember a prime example of someone else's one year as I attended a week-long seminar with some friends. The speaker did a "chalk talk" one evening. He had turned the lights down low and had this huge white easel with all kinds of colored chalk in a tray at the base, and special lights at the top. As he chatted conversationally to us, he worked on this "chalk" drawing. I think he was telling us about something that had happened in someone's life.

He started out talking about peaceful things, all the while doing this picture. He would pause occasionally and turn away from the board as he spoke thoughtfully. Then he'd look back at his picture, make a couple of gentle little strokes, and maybe rub some of the color with the side of his hand, carefully blending colors together.

His picture was shaping up very nicely, when he started to tell about a turning point in the story where something went wrong. Without any warning, he suddenly drew these huge black "gouges" vertically across the drawing, completely marring the picture.

"Oh!" people exclaimed, as he ruined the picture.

Then, just as though nothing had happened, he turned briefly away from the picture and calmly continued his story. He would say something and then put some short diagonal lines on the gouges, then talk some more and draw some other lines and things near the gouges.

In no time at all, he had turned those awful "mistakes" into beautiful, tall evergreen trees in the foreground, and a mountain scene in the back. You couldn't even see anything suggesting a "disaster" had happened to the picture.

As his story was nearing the end, he knelt down in front of the picture and began changing the little spotlight colors. He went through them one at a time, and then slowly brought up one of those special "black lights" to reveal a fluorescent white picture of Jesus in the background.

All through that talk, after he had "ruined" his picture, then turned it into something beautiful, and then revealed the hidden work of Christ in the background, I remembered my eighth-grade teacher's words. That man had certainly been a very good artist, and had certainly made something of a seemingly horrible mistake.

In the nineteen or so years since I watched that demonstration, I have made some pretty stupid "mistakes" in my life. I've had plenty of opportunities to say things I shouldn't have, and made some messes for which I had to pay for a long time afterwards. I've "ruined" some chances in life, and thrown the proverbial monkey wrench in the works over and over again. I've felt like I derailed my train, got lost on the wrong paths, and wiped out the picture God originally intended to make of my life.

But the great comfort that God has brought me as I've come to him in repentance, is knowing that he himself is the greatest of artists. Even when I've felt like I've "gouged" the picture -- the plan -- he had for my life, he's reminded me that there's nothing he can't fix. I can give the canvas of my life over to him, and let him work and rework the picture into something very special and beautiful. I can rest in his perfect wisdom, and simply say, "Lord, I'm really glad you're a good artist. It's going to be really interesting to see what you make of the'mistakes' I've made in my life!"


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Added September 9, 1999