Art – A Child's Strength and Shield



The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. 
– Psalm 28:7
Recently, I had the joy of seeing art provide a safe place for a child in a difficult situation. Art is like that - when held in the right respect, it becomes more than a thing - it becomes a place.

I sat there in a crowded negative place among people who seemed so different than me, yet, whom I was way too familiar with. I was realizing what a different person I had become in recent years. To put it plainly, I was uncomfortable, I wanted to leave and just get out of there.

Then....there he was, sitting beside me with his legs swinging back and forth and talking "a-mile-a-minute." If it were not for his wide-eyed wonder, I may have found a way to be distracted from his chattering. He went on and on but then spontaneously said, "So, you can draw like real-stuff. How do you do that? And then his hands went up, as if sculpting the air, and he said, "How do you make it look like it is coming off the page?" I answered him, something typical like, "Well, you just have to practice." Up he came out of his seat and through the screen door he went faster than I could think about what he was doing. I thought, "Well, there he goes, off to something else" but then as quickly as he left, he returned with a stack of paper, pencil, and some of his drawings he had been working on. He said, "Show me." A smile came across my face. This wiry bundle of randomness, typically viewed as a nuisance, or the "one to keep in line" was asking for an art lesson and was being diligent about getting just that.

We sat there for a long time, talking about how drawing was just a matter of seeing, how letting the pencil move under your fingers in connection with your eye causes freedom in drawing, and how capturing reality was a matter of being able to touch the object visually without literally touching it. He got it! As we talked and practiced drawing objects, I quickly saw that I could relate to this usually immature, even what others called "babyish", child on an amazingly mature level - which was more than I could say for most of the adults loafing around - the source of my previous discomfort. So as we talked and drew, I was astounded at the levels he passed through in his drawing in a matter of about 45 minutes. He went from very flat map-like drawing to being able to capture form and line, shadow and highlight, and realistic figure sketching. It was nearly genius - but this was not the most impressive thing about my encounter with him. There was something more gained.

At some point, while my new art protege and I were immersed in these empowering moments of learning a skill that many desire, but few pursue, one of the adults who typically kept this little boy "in-line" decided, for no other reason that I can think of except to be cruel, that he needed to be reminded of the nuisance that had defined him. So....she began by saying she was so surprised that he was sitting that still to learn anything. She indirectly shot off comments that he just thought he was "all that" because he could draw now. He ignored her. My praise towards him increased. She continued. He began to shrink - literally, tucking his shoulders in and ducking his head low. He managed a little insecure chuckle but continued drawing. So she brought out the big guns and said, "Ask him how he's been acting? You should see him when he gets so angry – he throws one more fit on us – scratching his own arms, and yellin', and crying like a little baby." I was just about to come to his defense and strongly explain to her that he probably acted that way because it was the only way he knew to deal with her verbal abuse, which was loudly on display in that very moment, BUT....

I looked at him and he was about to lose it...tears were welling up behind those eyes which had moments before been filled with wonder and confidence and he took about two deep breaths, tightened his shoulders, and he…

DREW.

And as her poisonous chattering seemed to fade off into a tunnel where it could never reach us in that moment or hopefully, in any other moments again....he drew, and drew, and drew.

As I watched his shoulders relax and his confidence stabilize, I knew that God had given him, through our simple art lesson, a very powerful tool to endure the poison of the enemy.

That's what art is about. It's more than art. It's about life.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I love this post! I was right there in that story with you and little boy and the poisonous woman with the venomous words. I could see the expression on his little face and I could feel his determination ... maybe because, in my own way, I've been him.