Two words: FINALLY FINISHED.
There is a great story behind this painting. It was supposed to be a contribution for every week of the Advent Challenge: the upper left for Faith, the upper left for Hope, and the lower half for Love. I had it all planned out – I would paint a picture every week until the whole piece is finished. Like any human being born on the face of the earth, I had delusions of grandeur. I had thoughts of producing a masterpiece, a work of art worthy of praise. I had the pictures in great detail and form in my mind – the shading and blending perfect.
And then the weeks began.
The first week of Faith, I was on fire to work on the painting even though I was low on quiet times. I thought the picture of the manger would be perfect for Faith. The shepherds never were sure whether there was indeed a baby in a manger in Jerusalem. They just followed by faith. Lo and behold, the Prince of Peace really was in a manger in Jerusalem. In our case, we may not have witnessed the Prince of Peace himself but like the shepherds, we walk by faith and not by sight.
As the week progressed into Hope, I got very distressed from not having the time to paint. I thought hard of the concept more than actually putting it into a picture. I thought: He bridged the long gap between God and men by becoming fully man while being fully God. In our broken and fallen world, He became our Hope. He became our light in the midst the world’s darkness. It could also be “HOPE: Instead of us reaching up to Him hopelessly, He reached down to us Hopefully.”
In the end, the week passed without my Hope contribution. For the week of Love, I had things planned even before I started Faith. A cross would be the picture. The greatest Love: He was born to die for us to save us all.
It was pretty much okay, right? Nothing wrong from the outside? Guess again.
For the entire Advent Challenge, I knew something was wrong. I was drifting away from the very man whose birth I was going to celebrate in a few days. I pushed the feeling aside and made myself appear strong. I still chose to bum around and ignore Him. Midweek, I felt myself crying. From the depths of my heart, I uttered, “How can I live for You when I feel that every breath that I take is not for You?” Clearly, a cry of despair. I felt that I haven’t loved God recently. I was trading Jesus for temporary pleasures. I was moving around and doing things, but none was done for Him. I felt myself rotting away, and I knew something has to be done. I was determined to turn things around.
Little by little, I began to take in everything that has been happening and sit down to process them. One of my realizations was even though I haven’t been faithful in my love for God, God certainly had been faithful in His love for me. During the earlier days of the month, I had encountered numerous blessings, all in different forms: a meaningful date with sisters, a bus crash where no one was hurt, Christmas celebrations with my church, a free Shih Tzu from a loving sister, a collision that damaged only the passenger side of the car, a high percentile score in the NMAT, a dinner celebration with brothers in faith. Every circumstance displayed both God’s sovereignty and His unending love.
I realize now that the weeks past were preparing me for Love. The greatest commandment of all is to love God. Since God is love, we cannot love others unless we love Him. God loves us, and for us beastly and sinful creatures, the greatest thing that we could do is to return His love.
I once read that everything is not about us. It’s never about us. If we love ourselves more than the One who is love, we would lose our lives. In the same way, Christmas is not about me. It’s not about how good I do things for me, but about how amazing He does things for me. It’s not about how I try to love Him, but about how He loves me and how He is willing to be born only to be crucified in the end for me.
When Jesus held out His hand to man for the first time, He was saying, ‘I am with you and I will give you hope.’ When Jesus spread His arms on the cross, He was saying, ‘I love you this much.’
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
-1 Corinthians 13:13
Looking at my painting now, I am very happy that it is finished. It’s not the best, but it taught me a lesson that humbled my heart: For God so loved the world. For God so loved me.
Painting and story by Ms. Claudette Plumo