The Broken Crayon and the Completed Work of Art

I wander around the art museum, trying to find my way. I was told there is a gift there for me.  

When I finally arrive at the place I was told to go, I am stunned. The beauty that is before me is too much. I cannot move. It is a masterpiece beyond description.


It can’t be true. Is it really a gift for me? There must be some mistake. It’s too heart-wrenchingly beautiful. I cannot comprehend this exists at all, much less accept this as a gift.


I am overwhelmed. I don’t know what to do.


Then, I look down and remember. That piece of broken crayon in my hand. The one I grabbed in anger after my son scribbled on the wall. It is still wrapped up in my fingers. I was on my way to throw it out when I somehow ended up here.


I begin to scribble on the painting.


At first, just a little bit, on the bottom corner. Something in me feels like I must do something, and it’s the only thing I can think to do. As if somehow adding to the work of the artist will make me more deserving of the gift.


But as I move my hand back and forth and back and forth, I notice that it doesn’t help. I grow more unsettled with each movement. My strokes grow wider and more furious as the sense of unworthiness and frustration grows within me. With each glide across the canvas, I feel more wretched than the last.


Until suddenly, there is a noise in the other room. I look away. And when I look back to the masterpiece again, I realize what I have done.


And I crumple to the ground in utter despair.


What was I thinking? Why did I think trying to add to this great work would somehow make me more deserving of it?


It is not better. It is worse. So much worse. What have I done?


I take off my scarf. Maybe I can use it to wipe away my mistake. I scour as hard as I can. But the more I scrub, the worse the mess seems to get.


I look around. Has anyone noticed? Does anyone know what a mess I have made? I wring my hands and go back to scrubbing, not sure what else to do.


Why did I do this? Why? Oh, if I could take it back! I’d give anything to take it back. How do I make up for this now?


My only instinct is to try harder. I wipe at the painting with the tears that have begun to stream down my cheeks, hoping the water will help.


It doesn’t. Nothing seems to help.


I hear footsteps behind me and my heart sinks to the floor. I turn around to look. It is the artist. I try to hide, but he is walking right towards me, with an outstretched hand.


He pries open my palm and the crayon tumbles to the ground.

My love, this masterpiece is finished. It is my work, not yours. You do not need to add to it. It is complete. And it is a gift. You need only come. You need only receive.


He reaches over to my other arm and takes away my scarf.

My love, your own scrubbing cannot get this clean. Trying to cover it up your marks does no good. I am the artist. It is accomplished only through me.


He puts his hand on the painting, and through my tears, I see the crayon dissolve.


The artist looks back at me, and I see that I was not alone in my weeping. He grabs my shoulders and looks me in the eyes.

My love, when I said this was a gift for you, I meant it. It is forged from the beauty and pain of a perfect love. There is nothing you can do to add to it. I am the one who finished it. And I completed this masterpiece for you. Take it home with you now. And know that you are worthy to have it because my love declares it so.


It is finished.

broken crayon 

To be honest, this allegorical story was a little out of my writing comfort zone. But I couldn’t find any other words to describe the gravity and love and importance of John 19:30, when, as Jesus died, He declared, “It is finished!” I have often not believed those three little words, and attempted to add to Jesus’ work on the cross. It always ends in a mess.


Jesus Said Lent Series ButtonA series to honor the Lenten season by reflecting on various teachings of Christ. Let’s think about who He was and what He came to do by talking about the words that came straight from His mouth.


Wonder: Waiting for the Right Gift

When Matt Appling writes, he calls the church to be a better version of herself. Somehow, he also manages to be both compelling & grace-filled. I hope you sense that in his words today.

Linus was able to recite the Christmas story by heart for the benefit of his friend, Charlie Brown…from the King James Bible no less.

Since then, millions of children had heard that familiar Christmas story as told by Linus.  Even if they never hear the story recited by a parent or pastor, they know the story because of Linus.

But I think there’s an equally good version of the Christmas story.  It just doesn’t get a whole lot of usage.

It’s about waiting…

About anticipation…

About all the emotions that are wrapped up with that infant Jesus.


The Other Christmas Story


One of my favorite scriptures to read at Christmas time is actually John chapter one.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made…

…He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

No angels or shepherds or even a baby in the manger, but to me it is nothing less than the Christmas story.


The Twelve Weeks of Christmas


We put a lot of anticipation on Christmas.  The Christmas season really begins with Thanksgiving.  We see decorations return to stores in October, reminding us of the impending holiday.  Over a tenth of the year is spent anticipating Christmas.

I remember the unique feeling of anticipation and anxiety I felt as a child leading up to Christmas.  Today, I anticipate Christmas for different reasons than I did as a child, but the feeling of anticipation is still there.

But when I read John’s gospel, I imagine just how much God anticipated that first Christmas.


In the Beginning…


John’s gospel says that Jesus was with God in the beginning, way back in Genesis, when God was forming the world.  Jesus was right there, creating the world.

Of course, it was not long before God’s plan for humanity goes sideways.  God’s perfect creation is wrecked, like a child’s Christmas present that breaks right after being unwrapped.

I can imagine the heartbreak God felt as he sent his beloved people out of the garden.  He no longer enjoyed unbridled fellowship with his creation.

But God has a plan to make it all new again.

But it isn’t a plan that can be slapped together overnight.  God meticulously lays his plans, through generation after generation.  He is looking centuries into the future.  His heart continues to break as people turn away from Him.  The day when His plan will come to fruition seems like it cannot come soon enough.  But God must wait.


Expecting a Different Gift


All of the anticipation and excitement we have ever felt toward Christmas was utterly eclipsed by the anticipation God felt as He prepared to become incarnate among us.

God had the most perfect gift to give.  He could barely contain His excitement.  He knows that this gift will make everything right again.  The gift is finally given “in the fullness of time.”  That means the time was just right.

And what happened when the gift of the Savior, God with us, Immanuel, was finally given?

People didn’t recognize Him.  They were anticipating something else.  They missed Him.

That’s what people have been for two-thousand years.  We continue to expect something else.  We anticipate and get excited for another, lesser, imperfect gift than the one God was so excited to give.  And the excitement of all the gifts we give wears off so quickly.

Don’t miss the gift God wants to give you.  Get excited the way you did as a child.  Get some butterflies in your stomach, the kind you had as you ran downstairs in your PJs.  God has sent a Savior.  Make sure you don’t miss Him.


About Today's Guest Blogger: Matt Appling

For starters, I am an elementary art teacher, and I love it.  Guiding students in creative pursuits is such a gift to me.  I am also a seminary educated pastor, and lead a wonderful little house church.  In 2008, I started my blog, The Church of No People.  I am also a syndicated columnist at Prodigal Magazine. On April 1, 2013, Moody Publishers will release my debut book, Life After Art.  I wrote it with inspiration and insights I unexpectedly gained as an art teacher. I tweet at @MattTCoNP.


Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.


A Personalized Gift for You!

This is not my typical post. And I am super excited about it. Several times in recent months, I have gotten in conversations about the power of Scripture personalization. Personalizing Bible verses helped me when I was trying to understand how God felt about me. Not generally, as a human being, but specifically, as me.

The idea is to put verses into the first person- with God as the "I" and ourselves as the "you." Then, take it one step further and insert our names.

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I do not believe is not a good way to read the Bible as a whole. The Bible is steeped in culture and history. When studying each book of the Bible, it is important to examine what type of literature it is, and the context in which it was written, in which it was written in order to understand how it can best be applied today.

But, I also think there are verses that we can personalize and not destroy their context.

I genuinely believe God can speak through the passages of His Word, reach out, and touch our hearts. I think God wants us to know that the Bible that He put together for all of humanity to read, He also put together for you and me.

I have put some of my favorite verses to personalize into a piece of 8 by 10 wall art. And I would like to offer it to you as a gift. Personalized with your name, or the name of someone you know, for free.

It is available in four possible color schemes: blue, purple, gray, or green. Here is what it looks like in each color, using my name as a sample. (Click on the image to see it in higher resolution. You would receive just one of the quadrants as your image.)

The words around the edge to the right summarize what the verses to the left say. These, I think, are some of the big truths God wants us to know about what we have in Him.

So, would you like one?

All you have to do is comment below. Or, if you prefer, you can also email me.

In your reply or comment, just let me know: 1. What name you want me to use. (It could be for you or a friend). 2. What color scheme you want (blue, purple, gray, or green). 3. Whether you would like it in .jpg or .pdf form.

I will then send the digital copy of the 8 by 10 to the email address you provide for the comment. (Email addresses will not be abused and used for other things. Promise! And, they're not publicized. Only I see them.)

I would recommend printing it onto cardstock or developing into a photo.

Hope you enjoy it!

I am indebted to my friend Melissa at Ink in Pink for her help in the design of this piece!

Update: I realized the script font  might not be everyone's style. Here is another option with block font, using the example name of Bradley. If you would prefer this style, just add the request "block font" with the other details.

It is also available in any of the color options listed above.