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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Life's Ugly Gashes; The Bob Ross Analogy

For anyone who was watching TV during the 70's or 80's you know who Bob Ross is.  For those of you who don't, let me enlighten you.  Bob Ross was a televised painter who, in thirty minutes, would take a blank canvas and with a combination of putty knives and paint brushes bring to life a meadow, a mountain scape, a lakeside sunrise.

Bob Ross had a soothing voice like warm honey, and as you watched you were lulled into a near sleep trance, as green blobs were transformed into 'happy little trees'.

But then there was always that moment when he would take his largest putty knife or biggest brush and seemingly destroy the whole painting by scratching a big jagged black line on the canvas.

Now you're awake.

"What the h-e-double hockey sticks is he THINKING? He just RUINED the whole thing!!"

At that moment, I was usually annoyed with him.  Why did he have to take that perfectly good painting, that lovely lake scene or meandering path and make a mess of it?

This is where the analogy part comes in.

Sometimes, life is like that Bob Ross painting, everything looks beautiful, the sun is shining, and you are in a peaceful, trance-like place in life.

And then BAM!

Something happens that snaps you out of your slumber, feels like a giant black gash, messes up the beautiful tranquility and you can't make sense as to WHY.

It's at that point when I was watching Bob's show that part of me wanted to shut the TV off.  I would actually get a bit angry with the honey voiced Bob.

Like he didn't know what he was doing.  But of course he did, because he's the painter.  He knew when the canvas was just white and blank that the gash was going to happen.

The way I see it, our normal day to day unhindered life is like that initial painting on the canvas, serene and beautiful, 'happy little trees' dotting the shoreline of a glass-like calm lake.  And the painter, the creator of that life is God.

And then BAM!

The big black gash in the canvas, the thing that rattles you to your core, seems to 'ruin' your landscape.  Whether it's the loss of a job, a house or worse yet, a loved one-it feels like God has taken his big putty knife covered in black paint and put a big ugly gash down the middle of what we thought was an already perfect picture.

Although we can't turn life off like a TV, we can choose to get stuck, push the pause button.  Fixate on the gash.  We become stuck in a negative and downward cycle of bitterness because life has handed us a 'raw deal'.

Back to our friend Bob.  If you waited, and watched, he would take that horrible black jagged line and using one of his big brushes start dabbing away, just blotches at first that would then start to take shape.  Taking another brush he would add touches of yellow and white, light glinting off the boughs and suddenly an almost three dimensional evergreen tree would appear on the canvas, giving the scene a depth and life that makes it jump off the page.  The whole scene is so much richer now, that the previous landscape almost seems flat, and dull.

Huh.  I had no idea it could look BETTER.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

There are going to be gashes and big black lines in our peaceful landscapes.  Lost jobs, lost houses, lost loved ones, illnesses.  And at first it's going to feel like things have been ruined, changed, will never be the same;  and they won't be.  But that doesn't mean they can't be good, or if you can imagine, BETTER.

When I was 18 and my mother died I couldn't imagine how such a devastating loss could possibly improve my life.  I was young, I still NEEDED  mother.  There were so many things she was going to miss in my life.  I missed her so much that it physically hurt.  I was so lost.  But as the 23 years have passed since that 'gash' was put onto the canvas of my life I have seen so many GOOD things come from it.  My family is a tighter knit unit.  I wouldn't have traveled to Africa, met my husband, lived a thousand other experiences that I refused to let slip by me because at an early age I was blessed with the knowledge of how fleeting life could be.  Yes, blessed.

And ultimately, it led me to God,  to an unconditional love the likes of which I had never encountered.

These days I feel like I'm surrounded by these 'gashes' in my own life and in the lives of those around me.  Cancer, death, sickness and tragedy seems to be everywhere.

God, the creator, is never surprised by the sad and tragic events in our lives.  He knew before you came into the world that those 'gashes' would happen, but He also knew what His plan for them was, how he would add colour and light and texture to what was just a flat black ugly line to turn it into something beautiful.  

Redemption.

The choice we have is whether or not to get stuck staring at the ugly gash, or to pull back and look at the big picture, hand the paint brush and the canvas back over to the artist and allow Him to turn it into something amazing that enriches our lives in ways we couldn't begin to imagine.

The choice is ours.