Dust-filled rays of light hit my face and slowly bring me to. As I open my eyes I realize I’m in an unfamiliar place with no recollection of how I got here. I roll myself off the mattress onto the floor and get myself to my feet. I look around and find a pile of neatly folded clothes and a note at the head of the bed.
The clothes are simple: sandals, boot-cut jeans, a white v-neck t-shirt, and a brown knit beanie. I put all of it on quickly to chase off the cold air that’s been setting in and the hat serves the additional purpose of hiding the unruly hair-do the night has produced.
Then I turn my attention to the note. It has my name on the front in plain but beautiful script. I unfold it and read: “Come to the studio, coffee’s on”. I still don’t know where I am, but coffee sounds good so I exit the room I’m in through its only door. The scent of coffee leads me to a large room that has paint on the floors and lots of windows that let the light flood in. In the middle there’s a wooden stool with an empty mug on it. As I reach the stool, a man walks through the room’s other door with a large French Press in his left hand and painting supplies tucked under his right arm. He looks strangely familiar but I can’t put a finger on why. He’s probably in his early 30s and definitely looks like an artist. His hair is kinda curly and goes down to his shoulders and he has a neatly trimmed beard. He’s wearing a plaid shirt, khaki pants, and skate shoes; all of which look like they’ve seen better days.
He starts a bit when he sees me, drops one of his sketchbooks. While he picking up the sketchbook up off the floor says, “Oh, I’m glad you’re up. I didn’t expect you this early. Just give me a few minutes to get everything read,”. After setting the coffee down on one of the workbenches that line all four walls, he disappears into the next room. I reluctantly walk towards the bench and pour myself a cup of coffee. More questions swirl through my head as I blow on the coffee to cool it before my first sip.
A few minutes later he comes back into the room with his hair in a messy ponytail and carrying an easel and a large white canvas. I decide its time that I figure some stuff out.
“So, where am I? And who the hell are you? I appreciate the coffee and all but I’d really like to get back to my place ASAP.”
“Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been so rude. You got me kinda flustered when you came in on me during the middle of set up. Well, I’m…Jesus and we’re in our Father’s house.”
“Ah shit, am I dead? I meant shoot, sorry. But for real, am I dead? What did I do?”
“Relax you’re not dead. You’re here so I can paint your portrait. Father wants you to see it.”
“Wait, aren’t you a carpenter?”
“Yeah, but I have hobbies…and I’m getting pretty good at it.” He says with a grin. “Just take a seat and I’ll get started. Oh, do you want some music on?”
“Yeah, for sure.”
He picks up a remote and instrumental hip-hop begins to play as finishes setting up. With me sitting on the stool He sets up the easel in front of me but turned so I can’t see it. When He starts painting I will be directly to His left. After He gets all His paint and brushes out He rolls up His sleeves, kicks off His shoes to reveal bare feet, and picks up a paintbrush. As He approaches the easel He stretches out a bit, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He starts slowly but increases His pace and intensity.
After a while there’s joy on His face, excitement in His eyes, and paint all over His clothes. Even though He’s working at a frantic pace, He’s deliberate. He stops and takes a minute or two to mix several colors into a perfect hue before starting again. Every once in a while puts the brush between His teeth, takes a few steps back, nods and starts to smile. He walks back to the easel to paint again shaking with excitement and energy that has built up during the brief pause.
I watch Him for hours, seemingly unnoticed now; unable to see the progression. Finally, while He’s five steps away He looks at me and does His best to says “Pat, you gotta see this” without losing grip of the brush between his molars.
I’m afraid to see what he’s been painting—what He truly thinks of me. I’ve seen the colors He’s been mixing recently: swirls of black, grey, navy blue, and deep purple. He must be putting the final touches on the spectra of darkness that I’ve seen in myself for years. I tell Him I already know what it’s going to look like and would rather not see it.
Then, He turns His entire body towards me, takes the brush out of his mouth and says, “Pat, really, just come and see.”
“I can’t, I won’t.” I tell Him as I begin to cry. I’m convinced that this will be the final cosmic kick in the teeth, confirming that all I am is a mixture of dark hues.
But not knowing what else to do I start making a long arc so I can see His work from a distance. Within a few steps I can see the top corner, its color is what I expected: a kind of darkness that doesn’t even exist in my worst nightmares. This takes my knees out from underneath me and brings me to a full sob. Even if my legs would move me I wouldn’t be able to see my way through the tears.
Jesus then picks the easel up and sets it right in front of me, “Pat, just look. Please.” When I finally work up enough courage and clear away enough tears to see the picture clearly I’m faced with something unexpected. The swirl of dark colors is in the background, like fading twilight as a glorious and vibrant dawn rises on my face. I start to cry again, not from anger or fear but from joy.
“It’s so beautiful,” I say, “but I don’t…”
“It’s beautiful because you are. That’s the first thing you need to learn, appreciate, and live out. The rest of the little details will take Me at least a lifetime to explain to you.”