By Jesse Medina
I’m not much of an artist. I’ve painted or drawn a couple of things here and there and I’ve acted some, but for the most part I’m not very…cultured…when it comes to these sorts of things.
One of the things that I love about paintings is the way the big picture is composed of a ton of very small, sometimes seemingly insignificant brush strokes. For example, I was interviewing for a job and while waiting for the interviewer I was examining a painting that hung on the wall nearby. The scene was of aspen trees in the fall, the leaves just changing color. By the way, if you’re ever in Colorado during the first two weeks of October, take a drive through the mountains it is beautiful.
What I noticed, though, was all the blue in the tree bark. Blue. And I thought “how peculiar!” And then I realized how dull the picture would have been without that blue, but more importantly, I realized how real the blue made it look. But if I were to take a photograph of the tree bark of an aspen tree, there wouldn’t really be much blue.
I could have gotten hung up on the blue. In fact, many times I do. We all do.
I’ve noticed a propensity, particularly in Christians (since, well, those are circles I run in most) to place an unhealthy focus on the imperfect brushstrokes whether it be in a piece of art (like a movie, song, or play) or literature (book or online article) or even a public speech of sorts (political address or sermon). Often times, we get so caught up focusing all of our attention and energy on the imperfection of just a few brush strokes that we lose sight of the bigger picture.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of all this, though, is that there is often truth and beauty to be found in the bigger picture truth and beauty that cannot be found by breaking the puzzle into all of its miniature pieces. Sometimes, we need to let the story stay whole. We do a grave injustice to everything and everyone around us when we continually reduce them to their flaws.
Next time you’re watching a movie don’t get caught up on the f-word or the number of times that “Jesus Christ” is blurted out by a character focus on the story is it telling the truth? Even if raw and vulgar, does it represent what is true about a person, circumstance or event? Next time you’re listening to a song, rather than focus on whether it is labeled “explicit” on iTunes, listen to the message is it true? Is it beautiful? Can you find the heart of God in it? Next time you read a book instead of asking whether it represents orthodox truth, ask whether it is challenging, ask where you can find God in it.
Because, after all, God sometimes hides in the imperfect brush strokes of our lives and communities. Why wouldn’t he hide in the brush strokes of culture as well?
Jesse spends most of his time struggling with what he knows he should do and what he actually does. He is unendingly grateful for the grace of God for loving him and giving him as many chances as it takes. Hopefully, he’ll manage to get it right at some point. You can learn more about him and read more of his thoughts at his blog, Balancing Tension.