Can we Trust Ourselves?

See this oil painting of a field of lilies come alive in 2 minutes (time lapse)

Can we trust ourselves to always feel or act in a predictable way? Do we ever take ourselves by surprise by doing something that seems out of character? The above painting, “Consider the Lilies” isn’t in my typical style. Sometimes when I sit down to paint, my art doesn’t flow the way that I expect. It doesn’t mean that the new style is bad, even if I don’t personally like it. It only means that it’s different, not what I expected. That’s true of life in general.

There are times when we don’t do or feel, what we’d ordinarily do or feel, and this may be unsettling. But it may be a good thing to let ourselves be unpredictable from time to time, especially if we eventually settle back into a peaceful space of stability and authenticity when we’re done trying something new. We can choose to adopt the new direction or go back to how we usually do things, seeking calm and balance once again. Change can be good, whether temporary or permanent. It’s when we worry about change that we open ourselves up to stress, anxiety, fear, and sabotaging our happiness.

Matthew 6:28b-30a: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?”

How amazing it is, the beautiful intricacy of nature! All creatures fit together into the tapestry of this world, even common flowers like lilies. What a blessing it is when we can simply “be”, when we can accept our place in the tapestry without worry.

When we see ourselves sliding off our normal course, we might feel as if we can’t trust ourselves, as if we’ve betrayed our true nature. But change doesn’t have to mean that we’re losing who we were before and turning into someone we won’t recognize. It’s possible that we’re only expanding who we already are.


Perspective

Watch me paint “Consider the Lilies” in 2 minutes (time lapse)

This is a small oil painting, only 10 inches by 8 inches from what I recall. You might notice the scale when you see me painting the trees especially. I’m using the tiniest paintbrush I own, and yet it was still difficult to manage the tree details. Painting small is tedious, stressful, and causes eye strain. It places high demand on dexterity, fine motor skills, and my ability to see tiny objects. I often end up with a headache when I paint small.

My face may ache from clenching my jaw in concentration and furrowing my eyebrows. The frustration of fumbling with tiny areas with messy uncooperative paints can ruin what could have been a pleasant painting session. This is what happens when I am too short sighted in how much space I want for my composition. If I wanted a field of flowers and a horizon line with trees, perhaps I should have chosen a larger sized canvas, unless I enjoy painting small (some artists do, but I don’t).

Painting, as in life, is all about our individual perspective. If we are too focused on the small picture in front of our faces, we may miss the bigger picture. We may become mired in tedious details, stressed and anxious, frustrated when things don’t go as quickly or easily as we’d like. Perhaps we don’t like how life is going, or how our efforts are panning out. Maybe we didn’t plan our big picture, focusing instead on fitting everything into a small life. Big dreams don’t fit on a small spiritual canvas.

Sometimes our problems are lessened by adopting a different perspective. If we use a bigger spiritual canvas, suddenly things that were difficult, tedious, stressful and disappointing may seem much easier. For example, when I focus on what I haven’t finished, I become frustrated and feel as if I can’t get anything accomplished. But if I select a bigger spiritual canvas, in which there’s plenty of room to “paint” the colors of my life, I will see that I’ve accomplished much more than I realized. Often when I haven’t finished something it’s because I’ve been busy with something else. And that “something else” may be a masterpiece.

I’ve never regretted the time I’ve spent with my family or helping others. I’ve never regretted the time I’ve “wasted” trying things that failed. When time passed it was clear that those things I tried and failed led to who I am today.  Our perspective after time has proven that failures are seldom mistakes, helps us paint our lives on a bigger canvas.

Worrying about how our needs will be met, how we will succeed, or how life will turn out is an unfortunate drain on our energy and a waste of our precious time here on Earth. Worrying IS something I regret. Fortunately, worrying is behavior based, a habit. And as with other habits, habits can be broken. The less I worry, the less I’m prone to worrying. 

Breaking the habit of worrying is like any other healthy lifestyle change. It may take about six weeks for a new habit to take root, but once it does, the impact on our lives is unmistakably positive and empowering. We can change our perspective by painting on a bigger canvas.

Matthew 6:28b-30a: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you?”

-from book “50 Oil Paintings Inspired by my Christian Faith” by artist Natalie Buske Thomas

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