I recently had to stop in the road because two little dogs had dashed into the street. One crossed the road, but the other got confused and was wandering. I prayed for the poor things, but then I realized what they’d been after and was floored.
A large dog was jogging beside a woman. He stayed right at her side, never seeming to even notice the little yapper that was chasing after him. He never broke stride, never looked away. He was doing EXACTLY what he’d been trained to do.
And he was carrying his own leash. Literally. He held it in his mouth as he jogged down the sidewalk beside a woman who obviously had total trust in him. And the two made me think.
In a sense, we’re all like that dog. God calls us to run along beside Him, but though He gives us a guide (the Word and the Spirit) that He could use as a leash to control us, He ultimately leaves the decisions up to us. What do we do? What do I do? Do I actively choose to walk faithfully beside Him, not turning to the right or left?
The portrait you’re looking at took me so long to complete that the one who commissioned it could have had a baby while she waited. Why did it take me so ridiculously long to finish such a simple piece? Was I so overbooked with commissions that my pencil couldn’t fly fast enough?
This commission came in while I was working on a special piece for an auction. The image, which happened to be of Jesus, had been in my head for years and I was excited to draw it. The auction supports great ministries, and I was thrilled to be able to contribute. Everything was going perfectly. The wood of the cross looked awesome. The clothing draped just right. The hands were amazing. and then I got to the head and face; these were my undoing. No matter how hard I worked, how much I reworked, I simply could not get it right. And then I ran out of time.
I “finished” the drawing, but even as I took it to the framer I was ashamed of it. It wasn’t just bad; it was humiliatingly, publicly bad. That it sold for less than I’d paid to have it framed was no surprise; I was glad it brought anything at all – and hoped that everyone would forget I’d produced anything so regrettable.
I have no idea how many pencil portraits I’ve done through the years, but I’ve drawn enough that I feel confident in saying I’m good at what I do. Even so, this whole experience shattered my self-confidence. the wise thing would have been to pick my pencils right back up and start on something else – anything else – but I didn’t. It was many months before I could bring myself to even pull out my supplies. Admittedly, laziness and procrastination were factors in the delay, but they were fed by fear of failure.
Strange as it may seem, I share this story to encourage you. How many singers have had their confidence hammered after blowing the National Anthem on the Little League field? How many young dancers have been ready to quit after going left while everyone else danced gracefully to the right? How many aspiring thespians have considered switching to Botany after mangling a monologue? It happens to the best of us.
Sometimes, hopefully most of the time, we’re able to stand back up, brush ourselves off, and get back to it. Then there are the times when we lie there, paralyzed for a while before something gives us the strength to rise again.
Swiftly or slowly (Swiftly is so much better!), the key is to DO IT. When hit with such a blow, we need to be like David who, after discovering the destruction at Ai, encouraged himself (1 Sam 30:6) and managed to get up and do the next thing – and he recovered all that had been lost. Fear is a terrible enemy, but we can conquer it. YOU can!
I’m not proud of how long it took me to complete this portrait. I am, however, proud of the work; it is every bit as good as I knew (somewhere inside) it could be. I am also grateful for the amazing patience of the friend who commissioned it, and for the vitally important lesson I’ve learned once again.
“Down” is not someplace anyone wants to be, especially over something so absurd. I’ve decided that, should such a thing happen again, I will take a page from David’s book and encourage myself (or read myself the Riot Act). I have to; there’s another picture waiting to be drawn!