Today, I had the pleasure of attending a young woman's 21st birthday party. Jessica is a generous, beautiful Christian woman, one of those folk who carries God unashamedly and openly in her life. In the secular world of New Zealand, this is not always easy to do. It speaks of courage, tenacity, sacrifice and strong foundations.
When Jessica's parents came to me about a commissioned painting gift for her birthday, I said I would do it - but I also felt hesitant. Was God going to be in this one as He had been in my other paintings?
Whilst I have done commissions in the past, so I know it can be done, it's not how I usually come by my work. Most often, I am inspired by a word from God or am witness to a startling landscape or event that touches me with such power that I feel compelled to paint.
So, I accept commissions, but then begins the prayer: "How, Lord, can I bring YOU into this work?" Jessica's Mum and Dad provided two possible subjects: a fantail (small New Zealand native bird) or an orange coloured rose (such as Just Joey). Jessica had expressed interest in both and had enjoyed a previous rose painting of mine. To honour the gift God has given me though, I find I don't want to paint just a bird or just a flower; it has to be a bird that speaks spiritually to the recipient of the painting; it has to be a flower that inspires and excites about a Creator.
God came through. I don't know why I still get surprised at this, but I do! Two weeks it took, holding the painting close and letting the Holy Spirit bring it to life within. I find this to be a critical component of a successful painting, much more important than brushes and paints and fancy paper! With the certainty that my Father was with me, now I could begin.
I painted a fantail that has the character of a warrior, tail feathers raised, eyes standing out, fully engaged in looking out of the painting at whatever challenge lies there. This was the commissioned work I chose to do for Jessica because it speaks of her heart, her purpose, her character and her future.
I called it "I AM A FANTAIL", just as Jessica will find need to say at times: "I AM A CHRISTIAN - I AM A CHILD OF GOD".
A Christian who hides her faith cannot fulfil the commission given by Jesus. I hope this painting is a strength to her when the going gets tough and holding a faith line is difficult. With witnesses like Jessica holding firm and being an inspiration and encouragement, there is hope that Christian faith will once again form the moral backbone and spiritual direction this nation once purported to have. May that day come soon.
Thank you, Jess. It has been a privilege to paint this for your parents to give you, and to be able to bless your family with the gift of painting.