Last night, my husband and I attended a painting party hosted by friends who were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary. Though I’d been chomping at the bit to get to one of these painting parties, I just hadn’t gotten around to it before last night – I was so pumped!
We were given a canvas with a light sketch of a swan on each one. The teacher gave very clear instructions about how to paint so that the swan would look “smooth”, without brush marks. Well, being the artist-at-heart that I am, I had to start out doing it the “wrong” way, using short strokes that left brush marks. In the process, I discovered that I LIKED the brush marks. In my mind’s eye, they gave the swan’s feathers texture, made him more 3-dimensional. So I just kept on doing it my way. The instructor did try to counsel me, but when I shard my philosophy, she encouraged me to carry on, saying, “This is YOUR bird! Do it like you want to.”
And so I did. For the next forty minutes, I painted to my heart’s content. I added splashes of yellow, blue, green, and white to my purple swan and I absolutely adored it. Even my instructor said my bird was “cute.” I declared myself “finished” and left it alone to dry.
That’s when I started walking around the room and looking at other people’s swans. Their swans were nice and neat and uniform and not splotchy like my bird. They had added texture to their swans after the smooth bottom layer dried. Beautiful strokes of white, pink, and other complementing colors that blended in with their base coats. Some of them even asked the teacher to come and fix their birds so they would look even better.
I returned to my easel, suddenly unsure of my painting. Is it ugly? Did I mess it up? Does it even look like a swan at all? Was my instructor telling the truth when she said my bird was cute? Do I need the teacher to come fix my picture?
I considered asking for more purple paint so that I could kind of “start over” and make my bird look like the others. But then it hit me: I was perfectly fine with my painting until I started looking at other people’s paintings. Thirty seconds ago, my swan was beautiful. Now it was questionable. Really? Aside from all that, this wasn’t a competition. How did I get so insecure about this purple bird so quickly?
Far too many of us spend our lives comparing ourselves to others, wondering if we’re “good enough” and trying to make ourselves conform to an ideal that doesn’t fit what God has breathed into our hearts. This whole swan situation simply reinforced what the Bible tells us in Hebrews 12:1 – we are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”–not someone else’s race, not someone else’s gift, not someone else’s life. Only the race God has marked out for us. What matters is that we are faithful to the call on our lives. It is most certainly not the exact call that God has placed on someone else’s life. He’s never made two people exactly the same because we don’t need two of the exact same people on the planet.
My swan was still beautiful. My classmates’ swans were beautiful. We all did what was in our hearts to do and that’s exactly how it should have been!
My prayer is that you and I will look only unto Jesus as both the standard and the Savior. Be blessed!