I think in pictures.
In church, while listening intently to the sermons preached to me in my youth, the words I heard became the first brush strokes on the canvas of my heart. I internalized everything, in hopes of one day attaining the portrait of holiness held up before me.
Eventually I realized that I needed to stop allowing spiritual leaders to paint holiness in their own distorted light. Because their pictures and the images are not real. We are not to be striving to recreate someone else’s idea of a masterpiece, we are to be striving to restore the masterpiece we already bear in the innermost parts of our being.
In the creation story in Genesis, The Artist–The Creator– stepped back to admire what He painstakingly shaped into humanity, and announced ‘it is very good’.
What God has made is very good. Which means, I am already a masterpiece. I was born a work of art, a unique depiction or an image of the Divine, by the Divine. The ugliness I see in myself and encounter in others is the work of other human beings. By parents, caregivers, teachers, spiritual leaders unable to see God’s image in themselves, and incapable of seeing it in anyone else. Taking what God deemed very good and warping it beyond recognition in their attempt to remake others into an image of themselves.
That’s how I imagine original sin. The solution to the distortion of who we truly are is not to work on reshaping ourselves into a new portrait of holiness. The solution is in Christ: God coming into the world to restore us, so that we can once again see the beauty in ourselves and marvel at God’s handiwork in the hearts of others.
So, drop the paint brushes. Unless, you think you are a more accomplished artist than God….