Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In case you hadn't heard, I have one of the best jobs out there. I teach about five painting classes per week to groups ranging from twenty people to seventy people. I get to spend time with [lots of] people night after night, sharing my passion for art and trying to make them loosen up and enjoy the process. It's exhilarating, challenging, fulfilling, inspiring.

At the same time, standing on a stage in front of seventy complete strangers can feel pretty vulnerable. Here I am with no art degree (a nightly question) teaching seventy people to paint their own masterpieces. The dynamics of every class are a little different, and they can range from the silent type that hardly crack a smile to the boisterous (and somewhat tipsy) crowd that I lose my voice shouting over.

Then there's the fact that I can hear what they're saying from almost any corner of the room from my spot on the stage. And it's usually never meant for me to hear. A student makes a sloppy stroke and I hear, "She wasn't clear enough." A less than wonderful painting at the end of the night is usually my fault. I realize that, for the most part, these students are casting their own insecurities in the most convenient place: me. But sometimes, it still hurts.

The other night in particular, there were a few especially rude people in the class. At least every 30 seconds, I fielded questions in the most acerbic tone:
"What brush were we supposed to use?"
"Could you please slow down?"
"I can't hear you!"
It got really old really quick (even for my assistants), and honestly, I felt my face heating up and my heart rate quickening. I was frustrated. Angry, even. Instead of asking the Lord to help me in that moment, I continued in my own strength, faking a kind response that they probably didn't even think twice about. But even though I seemed patient, my heart was ugly.

By the time 3 hours of this had passed and the class finished, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted. Not only had I repeated the same steps at least 4 times each throughout the night, but I'd faked a good attitude. I was disappointed in myself and just worn out.

On my way home that night, I sat in silence in my car and knew something had to change. I asked the Lord to forgive me for my attitude and help me somehow. I didn't really know what else to pray, so I left it at that.

His response was clear: "Love must be sincere."

I hadn't even been reading from Romans 12 recently, but pieces of the familiar passage came to the front of my mind and wouldn't leave.

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Do not repay anyone evil for evil... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

And then, as if that wasn't enough, this came:

"The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." - Romans 8:6

Ok, Lord, I am listening.

He gave me exactly what I needed, even though it probably wasn't what I wanted: conviction. Truth. Correction. His Word is pretty black-and-white if you ask me. Not a whole lot of gray area or confusion in "Love must be sincere." And let me tell you, there was nothing sincere about the way I'd "played nice" to cope with a less-than-loving class. It also quickly became clear to me that I was trying to control my mind, my heart, my actions, and that clearly did not work. I had run out of patience. I had run out of energy. My kindness was quickly depleted.

Why? Because none of those qualities ever came from me in the first place. There is nothing inherently good in me. I am a sinner saved by grace. I was even a slave to sin when God purchased me because of his mercy. And now whatever good is in me is solely from Him.

On that long, dark, quiet ride home, Jesus revived my soul. He reminded me that people will not necessarily be warm and encouraging, but He will use them to grow my patience and He will love them through me. What a freeing thought - that I cannot love them on my own, but Jesus can. Jesus does. He's the same Jesus who stood silent as insults were hurled at him. The same Jesus who had compassion on those who hated him and asks me to do the same. The same Jesus who lives and dwells and works in me if I only let him.


  1. A good reminder for us all. Thanks for sharing, Whit!

    PS- Sometime I want to come to one of your classes:)

  2. Hey Whitney! I love your blog but rarely comment, but this post spoke straight to my heart. Full time ministry can feel a lot like the way you described standing on a stage trying to teach ungrateful people how to paint. It's hard to love people sincerely and such a much needed reminder that it is only because of Him & through Him that it's even possible.

  3. Thank you so much for this! I randomly came across your blog a few weeks ago and it truly has been a blessing to read it. I feel like God has been trying to send similar messages to me- in fact one of my friends just offered Romans 8:6 to me earlier this morning in response to a struggle I was having. Your entry today was precisely what I needed to hear this morning.

    Thank you for being so open and vulnerable to complete strangers- God is clearly doing marvelous things in your life, and if you are able to touch my life so meaningfully I can only imagine what a blessing you are to the people you encounter in person.

  4. So inspiring! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I came across your blog and liked how you have the links set up at the top of the page. Can you tell me how you did that?


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