When we are compelled to start over

Patricia Holbrook

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Patricia Holbrook

Timanthes of Cynthnus was a prolific 4th century B.C. Greek artist. His famous painting “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia” was discovered amidst the ruins of the city of Pompeii and is now displayed in a museum at Naples.

I read a story about Timanthes that made me reflect on the importance of not settling for the status quo.

According to the account, Timanthes studied the art of painting under the direction of a respected tutor. After many years of study, the teacher’s efforts paid off when Timanthes painted an exquisite piece of art. But something unfortunate took place after the painting was completed: The pupil became so enthralled by his work that he stopped working altogether. Instead, he spent countless days in front of it, admiring its beauty.

One day, when arriving at the studio, Timanthes rushed to admire his precious painting once again, only to be shocked by what he found. His magnificent art stood in the same corner; however, blots of paint were smeared all over its surface.

Timanthes was furious. He rushed to his tutor, who readily admitted to having destroyed the painting himself. “I did it for your own good,” the wise teacher said. “That painting was retarding your progress. Start again, and see if you can do better.” According to the story, Timanthes accepted the teacher’s challenge. He proceeded to produce “The Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” considered one of the most magnificent paintings of antiquity.

The story made me think of the times when life circumstances force us to start over. So many of us have found ourselves in critical and difficult crossroads, wherein the realization that years of work, dedication, love and investment did not translate into success. Marriages that crumble under the weight of irreconcilable differences or betrayal. Business endeavors that fail. Careers that come to a halt. Years of investing time and resources to raise children who, eventually, turn their back on their parents, their faith, and the very principles they were taught.

At the onset of these traumatic “life pauses,” our natural response is often bewilderment, anger, and even despair. Understandably so, for there hardly is anything more painful than witnessing the end of a dream or the loss of a cherished relationship.

However, as I reflect on certain losses I’ve experienced, I cannot help but parallel young Timanthes’ story with my own.

I believe that if we were honest, many of us could testify of times in the past where we settled instead of strived to nurture relationships and give our best in our endeavors. We sit to admire the work of our hands, completely disregarding that God has something much better ahead, if only we stop gazing at what is and believe in what will be.

Bible teacher and bestselling author Henry Blackaby said it best: “You cannot stay the way you are and go with God.”

Have you ever considered that the end of a dream could be God’s catapult to send you in the right direction?

I truly believe so.

We are creatures of habit, and many of us fear change, especially when it brings pain. But sometimes, there is no way around it. And so, God, in his omniscience and love, often propels us into darkness, pain and loss, because he knows what needs to change so we can fulfill our potential.

This principle challenges me.

As I type these words today, I find myself all too aware that I have reached a place where some things in my routine must change if I am to receive God’s best. As usual, it is uncomfortable. Why? Because I like it where I am. It’s cozy. Well-known. I enjoy my “painting” just as it is, thank you very much. But truth be told, I know that if I am to allow God to birth his masterpiece in my life, I must accept his direction, as hard as it may be, even if it means starting the painting, all over again.

The question is: Will we settle with the results of our work thus far, or will we choose to see hardships as the work of God’s hand, propelling us into new directions, where God-sized dreams and real joy are found? Our only job is simple, yet hard: We must remind our hearts that the master knows best, simply trust … and believe.

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Visit her website www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com