My “Greatest Story Ever Told”
People often ask about my faith journey. It’s too long a story for a blog post but it all sums up in a paintbrush story.
By the time I was a junior in high school I was totally caught up in the seventies version of Drugs, Sex and Rock-n-Roll. By the time I was a senior in high school I was totally disillusioned by the same. I began a spiritual search, which passed through the new age movement and landed with a group of Christians on my campus. I started attending their meetings because…well…that’s where the cute boys were. They played fun games, sang crazy songs, and included a ten-minute talk about Jesus, which I tuned out.
Then they invited me to camp for a week on Catalina Island, off the coast of Long Beach, California. It was amazing, but I couldn’t tune out that speaker. His name was Ken Overstreet and every time he spoke I felt like he was “reading my mail.” He answered all the questions that had been haunting me.
At the end of the week he gave this analogy: “Someday, you’ll be standing in front of Jesus. He’ll be next to a huge canvas that is covered with a cloth. When he removes the cloth, you’ll see the most beautiful picture you’ve ever seen. It will be so beautiful it will make you cry. You’ll cry and cry and ask, ‘What is that a picture of?’”
At this point in the story, Ken pulled a large paintbrush from behind him and held it up for us to see. Then he continued:
Jesus will answer, “That is a picture of what your life could look like if I held the paintbrush in my hand. Right now you hold the paintbrush in your hand, what does the painting of your life look like?”
Then Ken gave us 45 minutes to go off alone and contemplate our life’s picture and decide if we were willing to give our paintbrush to Jesus. I can tell you, for a 17 year old, that was the longest 45 minutes of my life! I knew my picture as a mess. I was already tired of all the things I’d tried to fill that God-shaped hole, but would I have to give up my dreams, my hopes, my future? I mean…I had some dreams! I planned to go to Hollywood and be a movie star — and I knew I could do it too.
I finally decided it was worth it, and my prayer of faith was something like, “Even if never get to Hollywood, I want you to paint the rest of my life picture.”
That was 39 years ago and I have never regretted the journey I began that day. My life is richer, fuller and deeper than I could have imagined. I’ve traveled the world with the love of my life, had great kids and grandkids, and had the privilege of influencing generations of students. And now, I find myself at yet another crossroads.
I had a vision of my future. I was sure I would retire in a job I loved and I could picture it all. But once again I’ve been asked to hand over my paintbrush and trust the true artist with a picture I can’t even see. It’s hard to do. Thankfully I have 39 years of history with this particular artist and know that his work is better than mine. But, I admit it’s hard to trust that.
Have you ever handed your paintbrush over to a higher power? Is there a part of your life now that you need to entrust to God? I’m with you. Let’s do it together.