Bluer than Blue
The artist leading the workshop in the desert city looked at my paintings and asked, perhaps facetiously, “You use a lot of blue. Are you depressed?”
I looked around at the other participants’ work, mostly done in earth tones –beiges, browns, greys –with occasional splashes of red and yellow. Desert colours.
“No,” I said, “Not anymore. I just come from a place that is mostly blue.”
When I arrived home a few months later, deep lavender blue skies, shifting azure-blue lakes, paler and paler layers of blue mountains and sparkling blue snow shadows seemed even bluer than the paintings.
Bluer than blue.
I come from a place that is mostly blue.
To some blue communicates serenity. To some blue communicates depression. I come from a place that was mostly depression.
A while ago I was told in a dream, “Look to the area of your greatest failure, for therein lies your greatest success.”
There was that night.
That night when I bowed on a stage before an audience jumping up to shout “Brava” and throw flowers. Most of them didn’t know I was balancing on one leg the whole time because I had broken the other one only a few days before.
Then there was that night.
That night, in a locked ward where a silhouetted person behind a flashlight peered in my room every fifteen minutes to make sure I was still alive.
That night on the stage, the night of “my greatest success,” was actually my greatest failure. That was the night when I identified myself as a strong-willed, disciplined, overcomer. That’s when I was foolish enough to think that if I just worked hard enough I could earn love, respect, and adulation.
The night on the ward, the night of “my greatest failure,” was actually the night of my greatest success. That was the night when I admitted it took more courage to live than to die. I was fresh out of courage. That was the night when my tank hit empty, when I had no will power, no discipline, no hope. That was the night when grace pulled me deep down into those depths of blue and began to show me that freedom means nothing left to lose. That was the night when Jesus Christ took me by the hand and lifted me up toward the dim speck of light. Drowning in emptiness and being lifted up to hope as a kind of baptism, if you like.
It took a while to get on my feet. I had a lot of forgiving to do. Forgiving myself was the hardest test of wrestling pride, self-sufficiency, and the albatross of potential to the ground. I still have to remember to punch it in the beak regularly.
Blue means freedom and serenity now. I understand better what Paul meant when he wrote:
Yet every advantage that I had gained I considered lost for Christ’s sake. Yes, and I look upon everything as loss compared with the overwhelming gain of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I did in actual fact suffer the loss of everything, but I considered it useless rubbish compared with being able to win Christ. For now my place is in him, and I am not dependent upon any of the self-achieved righteousness of the Law. God has given me that genuine righteousness which comes from faith in Christ. How changed are my ambitions! Now I long to know Christ and the power shown by his resurrection: now I long to share his sufferings, even to die as he died, so that I may perhaps attain as he did, the resurrection from the dead.
Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have “arrived”, spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal—my reward the honour of being called by God in Christ.
Only Someone who knows the plans He has for us has the courage it takes to show us how to die so that we might live.