Save the Canvas

Early one morning at the city’s art studio, an eager young artist set up her easel. Along with the other beginning students, she was excited to begin her first real masterpiece. She prepared her brushes and paints and eyed her blank canvas with anticipation. She dabbed her brush in the oil paint and stood poised to begin. But as she touched the brush to the canvas, she realized that, in her inexperience she had carelessly left way too much paint on the brush, and instead of a fine line, she plopped a rather gooey blob of dark paint right in the middle of the canvas.

“Oh no! Look what I’ve done! How could I have been so foolish?” She tried to feather out the paint, but it seemed to her that the harder she tried to fix it, the uglier the spot became. “I’ve barely started, and already I’ve made a mess of things,” she thought. But in spite of her frustration, she decided to persevere.

She lifted her brush once again and this time began to draw a lovely smooth line across the fabric. She was so intent on her work, that she didn’t notice the other student passing just behind her stool. Suddenly the passer-by stumbled and roughly bumped the young artist’s arm. She jerked and the line that had begun so fine and straight suddenly had a very unsightly hiccup in it.

The painter cried out in dismay as she eyed her canvas. “This picture isn’t starting out at all the way I planned,” she said to herself. But with determination she continued, “Perhaps I can work around that crooked line.” Once again, she dabbed her brush in the oils. She began focusing her efforts on another area of the picture. She would try to figure out what to do about the line later.

For awhile her drawing proceeded well, although the bumpy line and glaring spot still troubled her. She just wasn’t sure what she could do to hide them. As she was deep in thought, another student, a rude, self-centered person, looked over at the girl’s canvas and decided to play a nasty prank. Picking up a wide brush, he dipped it in thick paint, then swished it around in paint thinner, then flicked the sopping brush towards the young girl’s work. Her canvas was suddenly showered with speckles of dripping paint. She whirled around to give the prankster a piece of her mind. But he was already almost out the door, chuckling as he went.

“How could anyone be so mean?” she asked herself. “Now look at the canvas! It’s ruined!” The scene that had been taking shape was now peppered with black polka dots. The girl reached for her paint rag and began the tedious task of trying to remove the blotches. However, each dot quickly became a larger smear. She began to cry. There was no way she could mask all those spots. “Why did all these bad things have to happen to me?” She shook her head in discouragement. She saw nothing to do, but trash the canvas and begin again.

Just then her art instructor called to her from the other side of the room. She looked up to see him approaching along with an older gentleman. The amateur was horrified to think of anyone seeing her marred work. She tried to step to the side of the easel to stop the two men before they got a glimpse of her catastrophe.

But her stomach churned, as they pushed past her, to survey her canvas.

Tearfully, she began to explain… her own mistake… the accidental mishap… the cruel mistreatment… all the things that had added up to such a mess.

The old gentleman patted her kindly on the hand and said simply. “Oh, not to worry my dear… please, give me your brush!”

She handed it over and he stepped in front of the easel. Picking up the palette of colors, he began sweeping the oil paint with calm confidence across the canvas. Through eyes still blurred by tears, the girl watched the old man work. At first it looked like he was making the whole thing worse… more blotches, more scraggly lines, but he seemed to know exactly what he was doing.

And then slowly she began to see shapes forming… stately trees, a glistening lake, rolling hills, delicate flowers. The ugly speckles now merged imperceptibly with the fluffy clouds, the rays of sunlight, the mountain vista.

“I never throw away a canvas,” the master spoke gently to the girl, as, with a flourish he put the final touch to the painting.”Some of the biggest blemishes can be turned into scenes that are truly magnificent. You just need a little more experience, and,” he winked at the young protégé,” an eye that looks past smudges and squiggles and envisions a grand finished product!”

Sometimes my life seems permanently spoiled… by my own mistakes… or by accidents that have occurred … or by hurts inflicted on me by cruel people or bad circumstances. How comforting to know that there is One who is not rattled by such stains. Even when His very own fresh canvas was marred by a devilish snake and two short-sighted beginners, He picked up His brush and transformed the mess they had made into the universe’s most beautiful picture of love.

So, I’ve become convinced that the blotches in my life, whether of my own or others’ making, are no obstacle to my Savior! On the contrary, as I’ve handed the brush over to the Master, I see Him going to work on me, adding colors and strokes I’d never have dreamed of using. And day by day, month by month, year by year, the ugly smears of my past (which I used to want to eradicate) are actually being transformed into something truly amazing. His masterpiece… ME! Wow! Am I ever glad He never throws away a canvas!