|Dawn over the Sea of Cortez, Mexico|
Hearing and listening to the wee small voice...
One evening in 1967, I had the privilege of being a dinner guest in the Los Angeles home of a fairly well known artist and his wife, whom I’ll call Michael and Angela. It was a fabulous event. The rest of the guests and I were not only treated to a sumptuous meal but we were allowed to preview some of this artist’s freshest works. (Most of those works have since been sold to collectors or have been placed in some of the world’s finest museums.)
During the course of the evening, Michael related the following story, slightly paraphrased and edited for here style and content, with his permission:
It had been a tumultuous day. Nothing had gone right. I had met for hours with a number of clients with regard to a mural I had been commissioned to paint for a new church being designed for a wealthy L.A. suburb. I had yet to accept any of the proposed ideas and hadn’t come up with any of my own.
By the time I got home that evening, I was a wreck. Angela and I had a conversationless dinner and I retired early to the guest room upstairs.
Restless, I awoke around 3 a.m. with an overwhelming urge to paint. I jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to my studio. But, to my chagrin, I found no blank canvas. I searched the whole house. Nothing. As I became more and more frustrated and was about to burst, I found a 2’x2’ piece of window glass in the basement, off in a corner.
This will have to do, I said to myself. I took the glass up to the studio and began to work, splashing and slapping paint all over the transparent surface.
Finally, after two hours, I stepped back and realized that all I had done was to create a glassful of mud. Feeling defeated—and exhausted—I returned to bed, sleeping fitfully the rest of the night.
Around 9 a.m., I awoke to Angela’s excited voice…
“Michael, wake up, wake up!”
“What is it?” I asked groggily.
“Your painting. It’s amazing!”
“You mean that muddy mess in the studio?” I sounded incredulous.
“Come see it, Michael. You must have been too sleepy to realize what you were creating.”
As Angela led the way, I stumbled along behind her. When we got to the studio, I noticed immediately that she had turned the glass over and we were looking through the reverse side. To my utter shock and surprise, there, on that glass, looking at me from under what I thought was just mud, was the glorious face of the Christ, with crown of thorns and streams of blood, and a look of the most extreme compassion I had ever seen. And, as if that weren’t enough, in the middle of Christ’s forehead, totally distinct yet precisely blended, was the figure of Christ on the cross.
I was stunned. Still, I realized almost in an instant that the first layer of color on the glass had been applied, though with my hands, directly by the Holy Spirit, Itself.
As I stood gazing at the portrait, I knew I had received the idea for the new mural.
I know the painting. I saw it. It was the most powerful example of spontaneous creativity I had ever seen, even to this day. And it taught me a lesson. When I feel the urge to create, I begin as soon as possible. It may not always seem fruitful at first, but usually, somewhere along the way, I discover the point. I simply need to start.
Creation continues…at every level. The universe itself is still unfolding in all its magnificent grandeur. But, unlike Michael, who, having completed his painting, stepped back to admire his handiwork, the Artist who is creating the universe does not step back to behold a beautiful though ‘dead’ work of art. Rather, the Artist lives within Its creation AS Its creation. And we, as Its expressions, have the unique honor to experience first hand the Living Mural.