The Masterpiece in the Mud

There’s this kids’ book called Ish (written by Peter H Reynolds). It’s about a little boy who loves drawing and does it every chance he gets – until his older brother laughs at him, telling him that the vase of flowers he’s painting looks nothing like a vase. From then on, his brother’s laughter haunts him and every drawing he does gets scrunched up and thrown in frustration on the floor.

One day, he notices his little sister watching him fail and growls at her to go away. She does, but not before she picks up one of his scrunched papers off the floor. Furious, he follows her and is about to yell again when he sees her room. It’s covered wall to wall with the drawings he’d thrown at the floor. She’d saved every one of them, smoothing them out and pinning them up where she could see them every day.

The story goes on to have her telling him that the vase one is her favourite and that though it might not look exactly right, it looks like a vase-ish. From that moment on, he finds the freedom to draw, paint and write whatever he feels with the freedom to be imperfect and draw ish-ly.

The lesson behind the story is that we all have our own voice and way of seeing the world and to give ourselves (and each other) the freedom to share it – but I can never get past the page where Ramon goes into his sister’s room. It hits me like a thud to the heart every time.

All those pages he thought were failures, all those dreams he’d given up on, every single one of those messes he’d made, she’d taken and treasured. She didn’t change them, didn’t frame them or try to make them more beautiful. She loved them as they were. She made them her own personal gallery. 

I know, I know, it’s a kids’ book. Just a story. But isn’t it the most beautiful picture? Isn’t that just what God does for us?

So often we see ourselves as failures – whether it be in work, facing the reality of unrealised dreams, in relationships or even simply in not living up to the person we want to be. We see imperfection as a weakness, throwing our frustration at the walls and bemoaning the fact that we’ll never be enough.

But there’s God, taking us as we are. Treasuring us. Cherishing us. Calling us his masterpiece. Telling everyone, “Come see! Look at my masterpiece! I made her. Isn’t she beautiful!”

But you know the bit that blows me away? It’s that he calls us his masterpiece before we’ve even done anything. While we’re still a long way from perfect. While we’re still failing, falling, nobodies struggling and too weak to get anything right. Right there, in our mess, he calls us his masterpieces.

You are his masterpiece. His handiwork. His work of art. His wonder. His showpiece. Not when you get it all together or figure out how to be perfect. Not when your kids start behaving or you get you marriage back on track. Not when you make something of yourself or finally find the strength to stick with a New Year’s Resolution past February. Now. Today. Right there in your weakness and mess. You are his masterpiece.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?

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