• Christine Labrum

He Handed Me the Brush

I few years ago I tackled a new project. I wanted to create a drawing in leather. Leather craft involves cutting a design into leather, tooling, and staining. I had not done leatherwork for over 20 years but had an idea for what this could be. My beginning cuts into the leather were hopeful as the image took form. For the next stage, I began tooling the leather. This involved hitting metal tools, smooth and textured, with a mallet to impress the leather creating depth, pattern, and dimension. When I finished this stage I felt quite hopeful and energized by this project but the piece appeared unfinished...

Leather piece tooled and ready for stain.

The final stage of leatherwork is staining. I imagined a layered look with a variety of shades and hues so, on a whim, I tried some acrylic inks on the leather. The ink could be mixed like watercolor paint and turned out to be rather forgiving which was helpful. I discovered that alcohol will lighten and lift much of the color if you "change your mind." Then I applied some stain. I had chosen a very dark stain for this project (I'm not quite sure why). Stain is quite permanent; I had forgotten how permanent. It also has a look that resembles a briefcase or a nice pair of shoes more than a work of art. As I applied the stain to the leather I began to feel uneasy about how the image was emerging (this was a new venture and medium so I had invested a good deal of emotional and financial resources in this project). The image was becoming less appealing with each stroke of my brush. My heart sank, and I wondered if I had ruined it. Were my vision and effort in vain?

My heart sank, and I wondered if I had ruined it.

I know enough about the creative process, and my creative process, to know that it is precisely at this place of panic that courage is required to persevere. On occasion one may choose to start anew, but often the process is about staying engaged, listening to one's heart, embracing courage, and, for me, a good deal of prayer. My gut wanted to add more of that bold red-brown stain…oy vey. Every swipe of stain was a mark I could not erase, but it was needed to redeem the piece. In time, I reached a place where the image was complete and whole.


I have done very little collaborative work. Quite frankly I cannot imagine handing the brush to someone else. It is difficult enough to persevere on my own when the end result seems at risk and uncertain. Yet, I am struck by how God chooses to hand us the brush and invites us to co-create our lives with Him. We are not puppets—we have been given the dignity of choice and invited into relationship.


When God offers me the brush He risks the destruction of His vision for me. I can choose to participate with God, or I can choose to take the brush and work against the Master's intent. It is my independence that puts the end result at risk. I was born independent, separated from God, and in need of realignment with God's intent for life and relationship.


Just at the place where we had surely ruined God's creative work, and those around us may have participated, God makes a bold move. God offers us Jesus Christ. His crimson blood stains deeply.


God's offer of salvation invites a surrender that irrevocably sets the trajectory toward wholeness once again. Father God offers us redemption and a journey towards transformation. God will complete what He has begun for we are His masterpiece, and we are beautiful to the Master (Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 1:6). God continues to offer us the brush again and again… in our own lives... but God also invites us to partner with Him in His greater creative work, His Kingdom.

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© 2020 by Christine Labrum