A gift that surprises and delights… but even more so shapes and empowers. When my girls were young, about 4 and 6, they each received a unique and extravagant gift. The mother of a dear friend was a skilled seamstress, an artist really. She made my girls princess dresses.
And on a December day my friend and her mother came to my home to deliver these extravagant gifts. They arrived with big boxes wrapped in shiny paper, one for Hannah and one for Michaella. The anticipation was tangible as they opened their gifts to discover brightly colored long dresses with trim and lace. There were squeals of delight, giggles, hugs, and leaps of joy. Each dress was unique… and beautiful… designed for each daughter.
The girls tried on their dresses, and they pranced around with laughter and confidence… clothed by beauty and love. How does this sweet memory point me to God's provision for us?
Lately I have been mulling the first clothes that were ever gifted and worn… and I have been considering the Creator of that gift. Adam and Eve’s story is so unique… and yet it is our story too. We are created with beauty and purpose, with significance. And yet, choosing independence of God our Creator, we get caught in our own need and nakedness, and we are tumbled by shame.
When Adam and Eve chose their own way of doing things, they damaged their created innocence and relationship with God. Their sin produced separation: aloneness, brokenness, guilt and shame. And they hid.
Adam and Eve’s nakedness was once freedom and authenticity... as they were aligned with God. But now... as they rejected God, their vulnerability was revealed. On their own… apart from God… they were not enough. And shame haunted their hearts.
Adam and Eve grasped at the created things to cover themselves. They stitched leaves together… and they withdrew from the One who loved them. They hid in the world God had made. But God comes for them, as he always has and always will. God pursues his created ones. God sees their need and nakedness - and God sees our need and vulnerability.
And like a mother clothing her child against the cold and harm, God makes clothing for his wayward children. How beautiful and nurturing. Like a mama seated at her sewing machine, Abba God stitched a covering for his children (Genesis 3, Psalm 30:10-12). And he would continue to cover the needs of his children, until Jesus became the final covering that would ever be needed.
So... I was thinking about God clothing Adam and Eve. And I imagined big divine hands (Not that God actually has hands - yay for metaphor) sewing something special... something needed. And I envisioned a child of God hiding, hiding behind a wall of independence. I see myself in this child, and I see us in this child.
We are invited to more than just existing... more of God and more of life. We are invited to come out from our hiding... God is calling. I am so drawn to God's pursuit of Adam and Eve. And his tending to their need.
Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.
You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Psalm 30:10-12
I imagined the joy found in being clothed by God. And I know the joy of being covered by God.
I traced the three core images with a fine black pen on tracing paper, and I set them aside. Then I painted the canvas with colors that seem to fit the story... dark weighty colors and light hopeful hues. Next I used modpodge to apply the tissue paper to the canvas, and I layered more paint on the collaged images. Then I painted the cloth a reddish hue, but it seemed to demand not just red, but a bold, vibrant crimson. The color of blood... and I could not help but think of how the shed blood of Jesus is the final covering for our sin and our need.
But it seemed that more was needed for my collage, in essence a picture of our redemptive story. It was not finished. As I considered God's pursuit of Adam and Eve, the hiding ones, I drew a path beneath the wall. The wall is built by our independence, and we hide behind it. But the path reminds me of God's pursuit. He pursues those he loves with great intention, patience, and sacrifice.
The little girl's dance of joy, clothed in brilliant red, felt meaningful, and I drew a path to reflect her receptivity to God's provision and "God's way." The picture felt full, but still not quite complete. So I sat with the Scriptures and the image listening and talking with God about our journey from hiding to deeper intimacy and trust.
The journey of the little girl captured my attention. She began in a dark space peering through a "window" into a story of light and freedom. But isn't that our story after Adam and Eve's fall?
As I shared my "almost done" collage-painting with a friend she asked me about the figure within the red cloth between the divine hands. "What figure?" She described the curled figure hidden within the folds of red fabric. She was reminded of the Scripture that speaks of God knitting us together in the womb. And as she described the figure I saw it. I had not put it there on purpose... but I did accentuate it a little. I was reminded of the silent and dark place of the womb or the chrysalis where creation and transformation occur.
And then the final element of the piece, I envisioned a chrysalis and a butterfly to speak not only of being created and clothed, but the transformative work God does in his children.
What do you see in this collage/painting that is true of God or his children?
Shepherd's Gathering August 10th at Grace Bible Church, Souderton.
Weekend Retreat now open for registration