The women’s bible study at church is working through I Corinthians, and this week, once again, there was a phrase that sang out to me in The Message paraphrase that I’m using right now. It came after Paul reminds the people of Corinth that they’ve been cleaned up by Jesus, and that they have gifts and benefits given straight from God.
How often I lose sight of that. I mean, I am very sure of my salvation. I believe that God’s promises are true. But I don’t always act like I recognize his gifts and benefits to me.
For me it starts with knowing him. It’s a work in progress. One step at a time.
You might think that would be a simple thing. Just pray for God to reveal himself to me.
But I think it would be absolutely devastating to see God fully, all at once. I like his way better, giving me one glimpse at a time of new facets of who he is.
What gets me, once I “get” something I never could make sense of before, is how obvious it seems now that I recognize it. Why couldn’t I see what was right in front of me?
The Bible also says that the reality of God can’t be denied, that he is revealed in his creation all around us.
But that doesn’t mean I realize how it points right to God as the creator of it all. Sometimes I refuse to recognize the obvious.
When I was a girl there was a wildly creative and artistically talented woman in our church, Sister Dorothy. (Every adult was Sister or Brother to me.) If Pinterest had been around then she would have been the queen. In my eyes she could do anything you could imagine.
I loved going to her house and seeing peeled apples drying to become the faces of old men and women. At Halloween she would dress up as a witch and sit on our front porch in a rocking chair, totally still. Until someone walked up and she’d creak the chair.
I still have some of the Barbie doll dresses she made for us girls, with rickrack and sequins and rich feeling fabrics.
But my favorite thing Sister Dorothy ever did was what we called a “chalk talk” at church.
My dad was the pastor, and occasionally he’d ask her to do a chalk talk during his sermon. She would set up her easel on the organ side, and as he came up to preach she would pick up her chalk pastels.
I paid more attention to those sermons than any others. No surprise when I finally figured out I’m a very visual learner. I was engaged in listening because I was always trying to figure out what the drawing would be. She usually tied it in somehow to the topic of his teaching, and I wanted to be able to guess before anyone else.
She didn’t make it easy. It wasn’t obvious as she got started. Just nebulous blobs of color, never starting at one side and moving to another, but some here, some there, with no rhyme or reason I could see.
After the first layer of color, Sister Dorothy would build them up, one on top of another. I would suspect a sunset maybe, or a forest, but it was all still undefined, no recognizable shapes emerging.
As the sermon progressed, she would add shading to show light and darkness, maybe a hint of whether it was morning or night, indoors or outside.
And still I waited eagerly to find out what it all meant, what it was going to be.
But the thing is, it already was, before she put it down on paper. She had thought it out, knew how she wanted to draw it, had an order she followed, and could see the finished product before she ever touched chalk to paper.
At the end of I Corinthians chapter 1 Paul tells us that for those of us personally called by God himself that Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one.
He thought this up, from start to finish, how that sin would enter the world because people make wrong choices, but even so God wanted us to be with him forever. So he made it possible for my sin to become invisible to him when he sees me through the blood of Jesus – a miracle. And then he lets me have a close and very personal, intimate relationship with Jesus, who leads me and teaches me every day to take hold of the wisdom he offers.
But looking at it with my little girl eyes I never could have grasped all he had done, all the things that already were and that I could have for the asking.
It has taken me all these years to be willing to ask and ask again, what else do you want me to see? Where am I looking and not recognizing your hand, God, in everyone and everything around me? What am I missing?
The scripture that blew me away always sounded a little corny to me, until God brought Sister Dorothy to mind as I read through it last week.
I Corinthians 2:1 – You’ll remember, friends, that when I first came to you to let you in on God’s master stroke, I didn’t try to impress you with polished speeches and the latest philosophy.
What does that even mean?
I’ll tell you the picture that I saw in my head.
Sister Dorothy would have all this color, the different shades and values meeting and blending and flowing on the pad of paper, and I could almost begin to see it. But it wasn’t until the last few minutes that it all came together.
It was the master stroke.
She would pick up a black pastel and suddenly make a line, usually long and curving or circuitous, and I could see it! A stream, or a house, or a barn. A boat. A man. A tree.
A few more well-placed lines and the whole scene came together, and you could hear people all over the church catch their breath when they saw it. It had been there the whole time. We couldn’t see it without her master strokes at the end.
It hit me that God is like that. Laid out right in front of me, everything that is necessary. I just need to look for the master stroke, the detail that suddenly defines so clearly what God has been speaking to me in subtler ways for so long.
Or maybe I’m listening to the polished speeches and latest philosophies when I need to lift my face and look at the person God places in front of me today.
So I ask again. Where do I need to look today, God, to see your master stroke?