05 January 2012

New Year's. And Painting. And Lancelot.

    I apologize in advance for the odd connections, but that's just how my brain works. It'll hopefully make sense after a while. They do all sort of fit together. I promise.
    So, welcome to 2012!...although it's been 2012 for a while now. Almost an entire work week! This is going to be a really exciting year for me...I turn 18, graduate from High School, and head to college in the fall-- some of the biggest changes and choices that I've ever had to face.
    I'm terrified of new years. You know why? Well, in the second semester of last school year, we started painting in my art class. I had never really seriously painted before (I mean, I'd done watercolors when I was a wee child, and some acrylics when I was a slightly less wee child,but not serious adult paint-requires-an-oil-medium-type painting), so I was really excited to paint on canvas with oils and do grown-up painting. Well, when I started my first painting-- an apple-- I sketched the apple quite confidently and then went to paint it on the canvas. The underpainting went well, just large, brown shapes to indicate light and shadow. But then, when I started really trying to paint with colors, I immediately froze. There were so many options, so many different color combinations, brush strokes, tones that I could use that would change the painting in huge ways (or in little ways. the details can be even worse to work with). I was terrified that I would ruin the painting, there were innumerable ways I could mess it up, and there were so many variables I wasn't sure would work.
   I know I'm rambling here. But the point is, for me, a new year feels a lot like that painting. There are so many decisions to be made throughout a year, so many ways I could ruin it. And that's terrifying.
    But then again, I'm not the one painting my life.
     On New Year's Sunday, the pastor (of a little church close to my Grandma's out in the middle of Havana nowhere) preached on a passage which is pretty popular for the New Year, Philippians 3:12-14.
     "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
   So that's what I'm going to do this year. What I should do every year. Strive towards Christ and know that He has a perfect plan.  Forget things that would hold me back (as in, not let them hinder me in the present striving).
    But then that got me thinking, too...what about sin in all of this? I know God is the one who is ruling my life. But what about when I sin-- "ruin the painting"?
   Well, it doesn't ruin the painting, not the one God sees. God sees Christ when He looks at me, and His perfect righteousness. That doesn't mean I can mess up my painting as much as I want, because I want my painting to look as much like Christ's as possible. If I make a mistake in a painting, I don't give up on the painting (well....sometimes I do *sheepish grin* but for the sake of the illustration, let's say I don't). I fix it. It's always fixable.
   And that's when I started thinking about Lancelot (because I always do, eventually, start thinking about Lancelot).  I'm going to assume you already know the story of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, and if you don't...well then. I don't really have an insult quite strong enough for you (although that's probably good, since "insulting people less" really ought to be among my New Year's Resolutions). T.H. White's The Once and Future King is my favorite retelling of the story, especially because White pays such careful attention to Lancelot's character and motivation. Lancelot, as he is introduced, is strong, valiant, and godly (okay, and also a little rude). He's also a bit self-righteous and believes that he is so strong and even able to perform miracles because of how close he is to God.  But then, after his first sin with Guinevere, he just gives up-- he says, essentially, "I've sinned once. God won't want to use me now. I might as well just keep sinning". He tries to stop a couple times, but that's the ultimate conclusion to which he comes.
   (Aside: I can't believe the plebeian spelling lows I've sunk to for you all just now. Obviously it should be "Launcelot" and "Guenever".)
   We can't have that same mindset. (There's a whole essay in here, by the way, on how Lancelot's failure really reflects the failure of the Catholic Church, which was really the only church at that time. If salvation is found through works, then, obviously, damnation is found through falling, even once. I will write it some day, quite prosumbly). When we sin, we aren't supposed to give up the ghost, but to "forget what lies behind" and "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
     That's a freeing thought for the New Year. Happy 2012. Our God is amazing.