A few weeks ago my son asked me to teach him to draw. This is a weird question and one we usually ask when we start to get older and more self-conscious of who we are and what we do. To me, drawing is just another way to express the jumble thoughts in my mind. It’s a thinking exercise that serves to release the pressure of thoughts and ideas that, if unchecked, boil over into dissatisfaction of my life. I need to draw, doodle and write.
I never thought of my paintings and doodles as works of art. I thought some were good, some were silly or disturbed, but not worthy of awe. My son is in awe of my doodles. His asking me was more than, “Teach me to draw”, it was, “Teach me to draw like you do”. I said I would, and what happened next wasn’t a great time of being silly and drawing, but a hard life lesson for my son: There are no shortcuts, just hard work and practice.
It was hard for me to tell him how to draw like me, step by step. I just draw. I practice at it, but the style seems to be my own. Heck, even when I try drawing like someone else, it never turns out just like theirs. This is because it is theirs, done my way. I tried to tell him this. I thought this was a shiny pearl of wisdom for him to glean. He became increasingly frustrated, and so was I.
I really wanted him to draw with his own style and not be disappointed that it didn’t look exactly like mine. I wanted him to enjoy the process and not just the outcome. I showed him that on one piece of paper I would sketch many different things – eyes, people, creatures, hands, etc…. To me it’s like playing. This is my practice, my sandbox. My son try to build his sand castle like mine but it kept crumbling.
I realized that my son wanted to go from a beginner, to what he perceived as an expert, in a half hour. I told him it doesn’t work that way, and that I have had years of experience of drawing and doodling. He didn’t like this answer. I explained that I would start by tracing cartoon characters, until I got use to drawing them and I could do it without tracing. Then I would practice drawing while looking at a picture until I drew it well. He was still not accepting my explanations. Finally, I told him that I have thrown away landfills of paper on just practicing. That if he wants to get “good”, it would take practice, patience and hard work.
Frustrated, he said he was done for the night, crumpled his paper and walked away. I felt bad too. I felt like I let him down. I know I didn’t let him down, but it was still hard watching him give up. I told him I loved him as he walked away and went to his room.
Preachy part: There are few things in life that do not require hard work or practice. I work hard on my relationships, my marriage, my parenting, and my teaching. Some of it’s joyful and some of it’s hard, but all of it’s worth it. I have learned that when I take shortcuts, I typically miss something in the process, and have to go back and fix it, or apologize. This is not satisfying.
Jesus spoke of a way to life that was difficult. It was a gate that was narrow, it’s way is hard and it was not easy to find, for few did. But it led to life. Jesus, promised an abundant life if we followed him through this gate. A life full of joyful moments and hard times. By walking through this narrow gate many people might think you’ve lost your mind, or you are too much of a goody-goody. They call you names or just become adversarial to you.
To walk through this gate was to admit your sins, those things we do against God, and lay down our burdens, cares and give up our guilt and shame. We don’t need those when we enter through. It will slow us down. It will make us quit.
There was another way, a gate easy to find, very wide so all of our junk could go through with us. It looks like a shortcut and many take it. Jesus said, this path leads only to the destruction of those who take it. Never healed, never forgiven, never accepting of a free and unconditional love.
It can be disappointing to realize that to get to where you want to go might be hard. You realize you might fail sometimes too. But if it’s worth it, you will go through it. If it’s something you really want, you’ll put in the time and the work for it, and it will become joyous and the reward will be life-giving. Salvation is free, but the road to righteous life can be hard.
After an hour, my son came back into the room to apologize for how he treated me and thanked me for sitting with him and teaching him. He then asked if I would still teach him to draw. “Of course!”, I said. “But it will take practice and hard work if you want to get good”.
“I know, I know”, he said. Then he gave me a hug. Thank you Jesus.