Some of the best art I get to see is on the refrigerators in people’s homes. When we have young children, they draw things at school or sometimes just because they feel like it. They bring those drawings to us as their parents and, even if we can’t really tell what the drawing actually is, we automatically love it. Not only do we love it but we go a little further and we display their art in the most prominent place we can find, right there on the front of the refrigerator. It’s there for us to see every time we open the door and for our guests to admire when they visit.
Occasionally what our children draw or paint actually is very good. In our bedroom, for instance, is a painting our daughter did when she was in elementary school. It depicts three turtles focusing on, and perhaps moving toward, an elevated egg which also looks rather like a moon. The colors are perfect. The piece is dynamic and flows. It inspires the observer and, though I have looked at the piece for over twenty years, I often still see something new. It truly does qualify as art as it draws me in and leads me to wonder.
But a lot of the art our children bring us isn’t quite so good artistically and we still love it. I really cannot imagine a parent being handed a drawing from a child for the first time and then balling up the piece of paper and throwing it away. We take it and proudly exclaim how good it is. We hug the child and affirm her. We look for a magnet and up it goes on the refrigerator. Each time we pass by, we are proud of the accomplishment. And we hope each time they pass by they will know how very much we love them because that’s really why we display it, to express love and affirmation.
Most of us struggle in this life with what we do and how good it is. I recently told someone that I don’t think I’ve ever done anything that was just right. Everything I’ve done I’ve always thought could have been better. The failures are obvious places needing improvement but even my successes haven’t quite been good enough. As I share that, I confess some shame about it knowing it reflects a hard and addictive approach to life. But I share it knowing that we all struggle with the same thing. We want to produce something that is truly good but we always fall short.
As Jesus spoke of the value of children in a society that didn’t particularly recognize it, he even said that unless we are like children we do not enter the kingdom. If Jesus were to be standing in the room when our children bring us their art, he would be the first one to get a magnet and put it on the refrigerator, not because it’s good art but because it’s the offering of one of God’s children.
As long as I am seeking to produce something that is finally good enough, I have shut myself out of the kingdom. When I recognize that God receives my offerings and loves me for me, not for the quality of my art or work, then I am in the kingdom. We enter the kingdom with our hearts. We enter the kingdom by knowing the heart of Jesus, knowing that he loves us and knowing that he loves all of us as children.
Every little thing we do, every prayer we utter and every act we commit, God receives and sees beyond its flaws into our hearts which led us to it. Most of what we do isn’t very good frankly yet God is proud of us because God made us and loves us. The quality of what we produce is not what makes the world go. The love of Christ holds all things together. Imagine God displaying your offerings and taking joy in your effort. Life probably isn’t quite as hard as we make it out to be.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.