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November 21, 2008

Brushes or Swords?

My friend and I sat on my patio, drinking tea and catching up with life. She had just moved to a new situation, away from familiar work, beautiful spaces and valued friends, and she was experiencing the exhausting emptiness of a job that was too full, a context where she felt undervalued and a place where friends were not naturally found. The tears filled her eyes as she spoke of her weariness, her disillusionment, and her anger. My friend is a fighter: she wants to right wrongs for herself and others, she wants to demand a human pace and human respect. She wants to know and be known. And she has been fighting hard for what she wants.

After the first cup of tea, I offered her this observation from Dorothy Sayers. "Life is not a problem to be solved, but a medium for creation." And I suggested, "Perhaps it is time to drop your sword and pick up your paint brush."

And we were off, exploring the internal battles that we so often fight with others even when they never experience the swordplay in our souls.

We spoke of the weariness created by internal turmoil and that lack of quiet within ourselves that adds to the general frenetic emptiness. And then we turned to the pallet of colors she had been given in this season - not the rich reds, golds and blues that this friend would naturally reach for, but a more subdued set of tones: greys, browns and maybe a few tans. Could there be beauty in this season? Could life be a medium for creation - even here?

It is not the first conversation I have in the last week on the difference between a full life and a frenetic one. And I find myself increasingly recognizing that, when there are so very few things over which we have control, we still have the choice of whether to wield a sword or pick up a brush.

I have no idea what beauty the Lord will create through my friend in this season - how large or small the canvas she will be given, or what colors may appear on her pallet. But I do know this: in most seasons of life beauty accomplishes a great deal more than anger, and a brush rests more easily in our hands than a sword. And so I hugged her good-bye with this prayer in my heart: "May the beauty of the Lord our God rest upon us. Establish the work of our hands for us--yes, establish the work of our hands" (Psalm 90:17).

Editor's note: We had the privilege of meeting Dr. Waterman at Gifted for Leadership's Synergy conference. We hope you can join us at this year's Synergy conference on March 6-8 so we can meet you! Click here for more information.


Great article - both the thoughts and the writing! Love the imagery of 'dropping your sword and picking up your paint brush.”

This is a perfect way to help a friend who is struggeling with inner peace within her own family. With feelings of being undervalued in her family she needs a peace image. This will be helpful. I'm not the best with words and this article will be most helpful. Thanks!

I read the title of this post and was immediately intrigued. The metaphor is amazing and can be extended in so many ways. Even in considering the picture that each leaves behind is a testament to how we view our life situations. Yes, the sword or the brush. Lovely concept and wonderfully expounded. God Bless.

What an apt article. It speaks volume to all areas of our lives. Our life is meant to be owned, every card dealt is meant to be played, every colour on the palette is meant to be used. We are to be creative, even the best of grays can turn out to be a thing of beauty. The beauty of it all is, we are not alone. In the multitudes of our anxieties, the Lord brings comfort through His people.

It's been 11 years since I've sat under Dr. Waterman's lifegiving teaching and still, as I enter this season in my newlywed life its these exact thoughts she presents here that continue to haunt me. What a struggle to live life with a paintbrush, not as a mountain to be conquered! I'm hungry for that life!

“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a medium for creation.” Says Carla Waterman. The question I pose is; how do you read your world? And;how are you going to write on your world? I like the imagery of the canvas and pallet as expressing our lives. Hopefully in beautiful hues, but sometimes keeping in mind that greys, darkness, water, and tears must occur before the colorful rainbow breaks through the storm. I’ve seen small portions of a rainbow, half rainbows, full rainbows, and double rainbows. They are all beautiful. I even love the storm knowing what it brings forth. Maybe this is what the scriptures implied by counting it all joy when you are faced with trials knowing what will be created in you after the storm can be a beautiful work of art.

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