Children’s artwork sucks. Whether finger paints, crayons or macaroni crafts, they’re just no good.
I’ve been given a few from little relatives and my first reaction has never been, “Better hide this away for Antiques Road Show in a few years.” But I’ve kept them anyway.
And the parents of those children value the art, too, because it’s the expression of a child’s heart.
In fact, I’d be shocked if I heard someone say, “This is crap, Billy. Everyone knows that horses aren’t blue.”
Parents assign value to their kids’ artwork because of what it means. It is a child’s best effort and the artist joyfully anticipates how it will be received. Particular paintings may even gain refrigerator status. I’m sure the kids believe the praise over their best works, but what if little Billy decided he needed some gallery space because the fridge was full? It’d be ridiculous!
But that’s how I tend to act toward God with my best efforts.
“God! Have you seen this! I could have said something hurtful yesterday, but didn’t because it wouldn’t have helped anything! Oh yeah, that person praying for 15 minutes 9 days in a row…that was me!”
I don’t literally point those things out to God, but I do strut a bit more when I’m being good.
I thought I was doing quite nicely a few weeks ago. I was impressed with my spiritual growth and thought that maybe God was in the process of making me a hero of the faith. Then I flipped somebody off in traffic. To my knowledge, I have never done that before—at least not where it could be seen. It was at night, so maybe nobody saw this one, but I sure held it up like a first place trophy.
And very quickly I was so disappointed. How much do I suck as a human being if that is my reaction to a situation? I thought I was being perfected! I thought I had gotten some things straight! I guess I didn’t have time to put on my holy mask before giving that salute.
I had been telling God how great my finger paintings were. I wanted him to notice that my macaroni art was a thing of beauty while not noticing that He made the most beautiful things on Earth. I was bragging about being good for a day or two when Jesus was perfect from beginning to end. And I couldn’t help but be ashamed of myself for not seeing it. Sounds silly to propose an art gallery for finger paintings—until I see that I’m doing the same thing.
I think I might regret telling you that story when it comes up in a job interview, but I’ll just tell them my crayon art is much more advanced now. Really, I’m glad that I had that happen. God let me see myself rightly when I was becoming more and more delusional. I wanted to hide at first, but I got to see a very clear distinction between where I am and where God is in the perfection count.
It didn’t come with condemnation, but grace.
God reminded me that my status doesn’t depend on angry driving, saying bad words, or anything else I do. Further, I don’t need to prove anything because Jesus proved it. That Jesus was mocked while the blood poured from his wounds is what took care of my sin—even my most recent sin that left me disappointed in myself.
My tendency toward being proud of my good works is strong. It’s hard to believe because I’m one of the most humble people I know. But I’m glad that I got to see a better picture of my heart before I started believing the hype too much. And please don’t think flipping the bird in traffic is my worst offense. It probably bothered me so much because it was in public and undeniable. I’d give you more details of my screw ups, but I don’t want to completely eliminate the possibility of being employed in the religious sphere.
Those times when I’m so obviously confronted with my hypocrisy gives me the chance to embrace the lesson in humility or pretend that my pretentiousness is justified. Hopefully I’ll embrace the chastisement, because nothing’s worse than a person who thinks his own perfection is just around the corner. And I really don’t want to be that guy.
However, these lessons are most valuable when appropriately spaced out. So don’t cut me off in traffic. I’ve already learned my lesson this month.
*Photo credit: Boudewijn Berends