46. Canvas of Forgiveness

46. Canvas of Forgiveness

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Canvas of Forgiveness

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.

~Oscar Wilde

I remembered being a kind person, generous in spirit, and naive about the evils of betrayal. That woman seemed to disappear with the judge’s decree: “Divorce granted.”

At first, like a victim of an earthquake, I just dealt with daily survival. Slowly my new life became familiar—the lesser home, the smaller circle of friends, and the emptiness. I became cynical and bitter.

I was fortunate that not all my friends deserted me. I was part of a book group and a Bible study, I met with several close friends for lunch once a week, and I had breakfast with one very special friend every Monday.

It was during the small Bible study that my new attitude surprised my friends. One of the women brought a quote about love and interwoven hearts nurturing each other. In the silence that often follows something beautiful, as everyone soaked in its deeper meaning, I said, “That is so sick.”

There was an audible gasp. The one who had read it to the group asked, “What did you hear?”

With a shaky voice and tears I couldn’t hold back, I said, “Obviously, something very different than the rest of you.”

Thank God for their tenderness. That was a turning point for me. I knew I couldn’t continue living with the anger. The bitterness didn’t just wrap around my own heart, but wounded others.

Night after night I took long walks after work. I cried out to God: “I don’t know what to do. Help me.”

Weeks passed and I asked, “What are you going to do with me, God?” As I became hopeless, my entreaty became simply, “Fix me.”

Searching for some release, I decided it would be good to reconnect with the artist in me. I painted portraits, although I hadn’t for quite some time. Actually, I had not painted since I had begun a portrait of Jimmy, my now ex-husband, and his dad. I would never paint over that canvas. I planned to burn it and dump the ashes in the trash. For now, it was in the farthest corner of a packed storage unit. It was beyond the reach of Betty, my ex-mother-in-law, who had demanded it so she could have someone else finish my work.

I began to attend art shows and browse the galleries in our town. I enjoyed the oils, acrylics, watercolors, and pastels. Photography and collages caught my attention.

One afternoon, as I returned to my little home, I noticed how bare my hallway walls were. I had paintings throughout the house, but nothing in my hallway. Why should I waste that space? I could create a family gallery made not from my art but from photographs stored in boxes in my closet.

I immediately began sorting through my collection, choosing my favorites. Some of them showed Jimmy standing next to other family and friends. Scissors would take care of that. I gleefully cut out the image of my betrayer and separated him from those I loved.

By the next week I had the hallway walls filled with framed pictures of the people who meant the most to me. As I stood surveying my work with great satisfaction, I heard a voice say, “It’s time to finish the painting for Betty.”

I turned around looking for the source of the voice. No one was there. Out loud I said, “And how am I going to do that?”

No answer came.

It is not a normal occurrence in my life to hear the voice of God.

Several days passed before I dug through my possessions to retrieve the almost finished canvas. I stiffly carried it to the trunk of my car. My stomach churned. My throat constricted. I drove home, parked the car in the garage and went for a walk. I did not talk to God that night.

The next day, after work, I opened the trunk and lifted out the offensive thing. Even unfinished it looked just like them. I put it on my easel and stared at it. Then, I went for a silent walk. Bedtime came very early that night.

On the third day, I squeezed paint onto my palette and began mixing the colors. What was the minimum I could do until I could call the painting “done”?

An incredible thing happened as I began adding tints that brought life to the cheeks and sparkle to the eyes. I thought about how surprised Betty would be when she received the finished work. I smiled. An unexpected joy washed away the anger I felt toward Jimmy, Betty, and his dad. Bitterness and cynicism could not survive the joy I felt in performing the loving act of finishing the painting for my ex-mother-in-law.

Even now, twenty years later, a song of praise and awe for the God who rescued me accompanies the memories. Never could I have imagined the path to freedom was completing a portrait of the man who had hurt me so deeply and giving it to the woman who gave him birth.

For months I had begged God to give me back the woman I had been. He had a far superior plan. He gave me the woman He designed me to become. I am a woman who looks at life with open eyes, nestled in peace and confident in God’s faithfulness and love.

My struggles—my ugly thoughts—metamorphosed into beauty. I was planning a bonfire but God was planning a piece of art.

~Sheila Kale

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