God Creates a Masterpiece When He Changes a Young Artist's Perspective
The Masterpiece

The canvas was so large he could barely get it through the doorway of his apartment. When he finally managed to center it across the two easels he had placed strategically in the middle of his sparsely furnished garret, the young artist sat down on the floor and studied the empty white space.
    In his mind he carefully arranged each figure on the canvas as he contemplated the transference of his vision into paint and composition. And he knew it would be a masterpiece; the life of Christ portrayed with an artist’s brush from death to resurrection in brilliant colors depicting the joy and glory of the Messiah’s visitation to man. In the artist’s mind, Lazarus is called back to life in meticulous detail. Lepers are healed. Faces cluster together on a hillside with awe etched carefully into each expression as they listen to the Master speak. And the same faces, some contorted with sorrow, others with rage, are gathered at the foot of the Savior’s cross as each drop of blood glistens with the artist’s touch.
    It was late afternoon and the young man decided to begin work the following morning. He had used most of his meager funds to purchase the art supplies he needed, so he dutifully ate a bowl of corn flakes as he continued to stare at the empty canvas. He retired early to his futon, which he had angled in front of his easels. And as he lay in his bed with the street lights illuminating the enormous white canvas, he thought he heard a Still Small Voice say,
    “Carl, there’s something I want you to do for Me.”
    “Is that You, Lord?”
    “Yes.”
    “Oh, my...”
    “Carl, I want you to draw something for Me.”
    “Yes, Lord, anything!” Carl snapped into rigid attention.
    “Carl, go get a paper bag from under your kitchen sink.”
    Carl obeyed and quickly returned to his bed with the bag. He held it up to the air.
    “Very good, Carl. Now you need a crayon.”
    “But Lord, I don’t have any crayons and all the stores are closed at this hour.”
    “Not the grocery store on Fourth Street. The manager had some trouble with his car. He’s still there waiting for the tow truck. Hurry, Carl, I’d like to get him on his way. He’s tired.”
    Carl swiftly threw on his clothes and ran all the way to Fourth Street. He found the store and burst inside. The manager was sagging behind the counter and he looked up in surprise at the young man.
    “We’re closed,” the manager said. “I thought I locked that thing.”
    “Crayons! I need crayons! It’s an emergency!” Carl refrained from going into the details.
    He rushed over to the children’s section and picked out the largest box he could find – sixty-five shades, one for every color in the rainbow and a multitude of variations.
    He quickly paid for his treasure and left the store just as the tow truck pulled up to the curb. As he hurried toward his apartment he could hear a car engine sputter back to life and the bewildered store manager exclaim, “I don’t understand! It was totally dead a minute ago!”
    Carl barreled into his apartment. “God, are You still here?” he cried anxiously.
    “Yes, Carl,” the calm voice replied. “Please sit down.”
    Carl obediently slid onto the metal folding chair by the card table in his dining area.
    “Carl...”
    “Yes, Lord?”
    “Take the bag and a crayon, any color will do.”
    “Just one?”
    “One’s fine.”
    Carl chose a brilliant magenta.
    “Now, Carl, I want you to draw the cross, a simple one, on a hill if you like.”
    Puzzled, Carl drew a simple cross on the paper bag. “Lord, can I use a different color for the hill?” he pleaded.
    “If you insist, but it’s not necessary – and just an outline, please.”
    Carl’s fingers glided over at least twelve shades of green before he finally forced himself to choose just one. The artist in him was chomping at the bit as he controlled the contour of the hill beneath the cross into a simple outline.
    “Now underneath the hill,” God told him, “I want you to write My favorite verse of Scripture.”
    God said it as if Carl would know what it was. Carl’s mind suddenly went blank. He hadn’t expected a question and answer session with the Lord this late at night. He was embarrassed.
    “I’ll give you a hint,” God said. “It begins with, ‘For God so loved...”
    Carl smiled with relief and quickly finished the verse – For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life, John 3:16.
    Carl looked up into the air expectantly. “Okay, Lord, now what?”
    “Go to bed.”
    “Huh?”
    “Tomorrow morning I want you to take this drawing to Goody’s Food Emporium.”
    “Why?”
    “Go to bed, Carl. Don’t argue with your Father.”
    Carl left the paper bag on the table and climbed into his futon without another word.
    He awoke promptly at seven the next morning. “God, are you still here? What time do You want me to go to Goody’s?”
    There was no answer.
    Carl ate his cereal staring at the primitive drawing he had done the night before. He hadn’t heard a word from God and he was beginning to think he had imagined the whole thing, when precisely at a quarter to eight the door of his apartment swung open by itself and God said, “Now.”

    Goody’s Food Emporium wasn’t very crowded that early in the morning. Carl came in with the paper bag tucked under his arm and looked around. There was only one customer in the checkout line, an old woman with a tattered sweater and a weary look on her face. She had become confused about her change and the checker was trying to be patient with her.
    Then Carl heard a Whisper, “Go pin the bag on the bulletin board. Do it right now.”
    Carl obeyed, but he winced at the thought of exhibiting something less than his best work.
    “At least God didn’t ask me to sign it,” he thought with relief.
    He pinned the drawing to the board as he was told, then he stepped back to look at it, an automatic artist’s reflex. “I don’t understand, Lord. Will you tell me what all this is about?”
    As Carl was waiting for his answer, the old woman walked past him, her arms wrapped around a small bag of groceries. She stopped suddenly and turned her head to look at Carl’s drawing. He watched her lips move as she silently read the words that he had scrawled in a child-like hand under the cross. And he saw the tears that began to roll down the old woman’s face. She shifted her groceries against her shoulder freeing a hand so she could reach out and touch the magenta cross. She traced its outline with an emaciated finger as a smile began to radiate across her lips, illuminating her face through her tears like a sun shower. Then she slowly turned and left the store.
    The Lord spoke one more time. “Tonight Carl, she’ll be with Me.” There was a pause before He added gently, “Now go home and finish your masterpiece.”
    Carl looked at the simple drawing on a plain paper bag, then he quickly fumbled through his inside coat pocket, pulled out a pen and underneath the cross he proudly signed his name.

copyright 1998 by H.D. Shively

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