I don’t actually drink wine, but I participated in a Wine and Canvas event last year at 12 Corners Winery. (The owners are amazing, and their sparkling juice is phenomenal!) This fun and relaxing art entertainment event took place in the winery’s banquet room overlooking pristine vineyards. We brought nothing. We set up nothing. We just showed up.
Every seat had a blank canvas and every supply we’d need – brushes, paints, a jar of water, etc. Easy to follow step-by-step instructions were given. Even if you’d never held a paintbrush in your life, it was ok. The instructor encouraged us. We encouraged each other. I was surrounded by the family members I came with, pleasant conversation, and the enjoyment we shared in unearthing our inner artists. Oh yes, and good wine, for those that enjoy a glass! At the end of two short hours, each participant took home a masterpiece. We didn’t even have to clean up. By all accounts, everybody won.
Cookies and Canvas is the kids’ version. I love this idea, too. While my kids and I haven’t actually been to this version, I picture it’s a close equivalent.
It’s interesting. God never calls anyone an “adult of God.” We’re always referred to as his children. So for the sake of analogy, I’m going to focus on the Cookies and Canvas version and suggest that it provides a good alternative to the comparison game.
Let me explain.
Well, first, let me ask you a question.
Have you ever set up an activity for young kids to do? Crafts? A blanket fort? Games? A special outing? No doubt you remember how much work it was: gathering materials, setting things up, possibly spending money, supervising said activities without bloodshed or tears, being present in the moment, and then, when you’d rather drop on the couch and sleep for the rest of your life, cleaning up.
It’s all worth it though, right? (Ok, I confess I conveniently forget about the mass quantities of Playdoh we own, because of the whole clean up thing.) But it’s mostly worth it, right? The kids’ delight in something you’ve taken pains to set up is gratifying. And the end product is even worth keeping sometimes.
What if God takes great pains in pre-arranging custom-made adventures for each of his children? And what if he takes great joy in our delight at his provisions?
I’d read this verse before, but it wasn’t until my own children entered the world that I could see it this way. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
Prepared in advance.
Imagine this. You are invited to a celestial Cookies and Canvas event. Nothing required except your presence.
Upon arrival, you approach a myriad of tables so vast you can’t see the end of them. Some are arranged in clusters, rows, or by themselves. Blank canvases of all shapes and sizes dot the tables. The chairs – in some cases rocks, stumps, ladders, or even cherry pickers – are designed to accommodate the layout of each canvas.
Each setting has a name placard. You search for yours. You weave between wooden benches, kiddie chairs, easels tucked into nooks, trees with swings suspended at various heights, and garden stools. You observe no two seats have the exact same quantity or type of media. There are traditional art supplies of every kind and some that give you cause to scratch your head.
This should be chaos. How does so much variety fit so seamlessly together?
You find your seat. You notice that no one tries to sit in anyone else’s spot or do anyone else’s job. You wonder why not…especially when you see your setting. Your heart sinks when you see some of the supplies. Is it too late to switch with someone? Maybe I read the name wrong.
God speaks. He introduces himself as the instructor and assures everyone they are in the right spot. Yup, too late. He proceeds to give step-by-step instructions. You glance around and marvel how the instructor says the same thing but you observe each participant translating it into his or her own medium. How does that even work? We each have different assignments…
To your surprise, you have fun and amaze yourself at capabilities previously hidden. The supplies you initially questioned make sense. And the cookies taste out-of-this-world delicious!
The atmosphere is unreal. You’ve never been in such a beauty-filled place where everyone is so satisfied and encouraging. You feel like you belong here. You’re filled with appreciation at the collective beauty emerging.
No one knows how to clean up in this place. But no one is worried. The instructor’s son has cheerfully undertaken the cosmic efforts needed to be the clean-up crew for every single person.
In a relatively short time, each person’s masterpiece is complete. There is no need to take the art home; everyone is already home. The instructor amasses all the works of art, skillfully arranges them into an immense mosaic, and smiles.
Your art fits into the bigger picture.
God’s delight in your work is real.
Where does comparison even fit in this scenario? Each person is uniquely assigned to a custom-tailored task. To compare our work against another’s is not an accurate apples-to-apples comparison. And from the scope of the Master’s mosaic, no one but him has the full knowledge how each part fits.
None of it is busy work. Each work is needed. And desired by the Master. Each participant benefits.
Take heart; your life can make priceless art. Because our lives are designed to fit the Master’s mosaic, we are freed to do two things simultaneously: we can confidently enjoy our own contribution, and we can sincerely encourage others in theirs.
Are you engaged in the custom-made art-venture God offers in place of the comparison game?