Posted by: spiritteacher | October 27, 2009

THE PAINTING (A Parable)

Mary, a retired school teacher, lost her parents when she was very young and her husband had left her early on with a young child to raise alone. These events left her bitter and unhappy. Her only consolations in life were her daughter, her granddaughter and her friend from childhood, Anne, who had always been there for her. She also enjoyed antiques and she and Anne would often go to yard sales and flea markets looking for treasures. Her favorite places were little musty, dusty out of the way antique shops run by ancient, musty, dusty proprietors as old as their merchandise.

One day Mary wandered by herself into a little shop she had never seen before. The first thing that caught her eye was a beautiful frame. It was ornate and embossed with a brilliant gold that lit up the dark little shop. She had to have it, but she was afraid to look at the cost. When she did her heart soared. It was well within her price range. She took it home immediately. Now, she had to find the perfect painting. She searched for weeks and months for the perfect picture, but she simply couldn’t find a painting that suited the glorious frame.

Mary was startled awake one night by a bright light in her room. A radiant being stood at the foot of her bed. The being spoke in a kind and gentle voice. ”You must paint the picture yourself. I will help you.” “But I can’t paint.” Mary sputtered. And the angel patiently repeated, “You must paint the picture yourself. I will help you.”

The next morning, Mary awoke feeling a mild excitement inside her. Was it a dream? Or had an angel visited her? Angel visitations are not something that happened to people like her so she decided it was just a dream. Nonetheless she went to the art store and purchased some acrylic paints, some brushes and a blank white canvas just the size of her beautiful frame as well as a small easel and other paraphernalia the art store clerk had told her she would need.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful”, she thought, “If I have a hidden talent for painting that I never knew existed?” Then without telling anyone for fear of being ridiculed, she set up the easel in her small study and put on an old shirt of her husband’s that still hung in her closet. “Now what?” she thought and then somehow she knew. She opened the paint tubes and began mixing colors and dabbing her brush into the paints. But she was terrified to touch the brush to the canvas for fear she would make a fool of herself by trying to accomplish something far beyond her capabilities.

Then it happened. The Angel appeared again right beside her. “Don’t worry”, the gentle voice whispered, “I will guide your hand.” With trembling fingers she allowed the Angel to take her hand and lift the brush to the canvas. But she was too afraid to look, so she closed her eyes and simply allowed the Angel to do the work. This continued for days and weeks. After each session with the Angel, she refused to look at what had been accomplished that day.

Finally one day the Angel whispered softly, “It is finished.” With great trepidation, Mary opened her eyes and looked. Her heart sank. All she saw was a blank canvas. It looked the same as the day she had brought it home. “It’s … it’s nothing. All these weeks and nothing has been painted.” But the Angel seemed not to hear her. “Now, put it in the frame and hang it in a prominent place.” “What?” she cried. “Everyone will laugh at me.” And the Angel repeated her command more forcefully, “Now, put it in the frame and hang it in a prominent place. And remember what I tell you, the frame is a symbol for the body and the earthly experience and the painting is the spirit and God’s Holy Creation.”

Confused by these odd words, she felt compelled to follow the Angel’s instructions. She put the blank canvas in the gorgeous frame and hung it over her mantle. But every time she looked at it, she felt a little sick and very foolish. A few days later, her seven year old granddaughter came bounding into the living room. As soon as her eyes lit upon the picture over the mantle, she stopped. “Oh, Grandma!” she cried, “Thank you!”

“Thank you for what?” Mary asked perplexed.

“Thank you for the beautiful painting of me. My eyes are laughing and there is light all around my face!”

Mary turned to her daughter and asked, “What do you see on that canvas?” er daughter, going through a difficult divorce and quite distracted by her own pain looked and said, “Nothing. It’s just a blank canvas. But that frame is very nice.” This confused Mary even more.

One day Mary was under the weather with a bout of flu when her friend, Anne, came over with chicken soup and a hug. As Anne turned toward the painting, her face lit up with a wide smile and she turned to Mary and said, awestruck, “Mary, I didn’t know you could paint! That is a beautiful portrait of my face. And the light in my eyes is like it came from a heavenly place. How did you do it?”

Mary looked again at the blank canvas. She was ashamed to tell Anne that she could see nothing. Clearly there were those who were given a special sight that was withheld from her. The injustice of this made her more bitter than before, but she just smiled weakly at Anne and thanked her for the chicken soup.

Visitors came and went and some saw beautiful portraits of themselves and others saw nothing but the canvas, although they did admire the gorgeous antique frame. This confirmed Mary’s suspicions that God was withholding gifts from her. She could no longer even appreciate the beauty of the antique frame.

Then one day she received a call that her dear friend, Anne, was being hospitalized after a mild stroke. She rushed to the hospital, forgetting all about the painting and her own misery for once. When it was time for Anne to be released from the hospital she was told that Anne needed a caretaker for a while. Her son and daughter-in-law worked full time and so they asked if Mary could help out?

“Of course”, said Mary, “I will put her in my room. I can sleep on the couch.” As Mary cared for Anne for the next few weeks she could think of nothing, but how much she loved her friend and how devastated she would be if she lost her. She fed her and bathed her and helped her with exercises after the physical therapist taught her how to do them. And though Mary gladly slept on the couch each night, she refused to look at the painting. She thought of taking it down, but something told her to leave it where it was.

Then the day came that Anne was able to leave the bedroom with a walker. Mary guided her carefully to the couch and made her comfortable and then went into the kitchen to prepare some tea. When she came back with the tea and settled herself beside Anne, Anne turned to her and said, “When did you find the time to do it?”

“Do what?” Mary asked.

“Paint another picture. I love this one of you and me smiling into each other’s eyes. And that heavenly light that seems to flow from us and yet is still one with us somehow … It’s amazing!”

Mary looked at the canvas and her heart beat hard. She could see it! Anne and her, their eyes lovingly focused upon each other, their smiles so kind and filled with trust. “Oh, Anne,” she breathed, “It’s beautiful. The light is radiant!” And then for the first time, she told the story of the Angel and the painting and how she felt she had been rejected by God, Himself, as others could see what she could not.

“But Mary Dear, how could you ever think that?” asked Anne, taking Mary’s hand in hers. “You’re the one who inspired the Angel to paint this lovely picture.”

As Mary’s vision cleared and her closed heart opened wide, she knew that Anne was right. All this time she had been as blessed as anyone and it was only her decision to be unhappy that had blinded her from seeing it. And then she recalled the strange comment the Angel had made when she told Mary to hang the painting. It now made perfect sense. With her heart filled with love Mary spent the remainder of her life painting heavenly portraits and teaching others to see their bodies and their lives as a frame around a lovely work of art. The End

May you walk in peace today knowing you are blessed and a blessing in the world.


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