I was 15 when I wrote this.
“What It’s Missing Is You”
The painter tapped his brush upon the glassy rim.
“I wonder what would happen if I tried to color sin.”
It was not the first time he had entertained this thought,
For his palette held colors he didn’t want to leave for naught.
“I have here in my array dark colors I have fused,
and it seems to be a waste to let them go unused.”
His temptation grew the greater, and he finally conceded,
ignoring the inner artist he knew he should have heeded.
He started with a person, the finest he could paint.
Then began to spread a dark and angry taint.
The head had soon been covered, the heart not to be undone.
It slithered down the spine, for it had only just begun.
It started very small and the hue was very slight.
Soon however the color had hidden all the white
The painter dirtied his hands as he worked about the picture.
He had a realization then, that sin would be the victor.
This darkened human scared him, and he trembled at its sight,
for he knew the work he had caused was as real as day and night.
And as he saw the work he fashioned, his heart had wrenched in two.
“There’s the sin, I admit it, and what it’s missing is You.”
He grabbed a fresh new paint brush and dipped it in some white.
but as he painted onto it, he saw it was a worthless plight.
The white hid not the dark, it merely soaked on through.
“Maybe what I need to do now is simply start anew?”
He tore away the page, and he dropped it on the floor,
and as it did, he saw what he thought was a work of the Lord.
The page he dropped flipped over and a fresh new white was there.
while the window glass above it cast light upon the bare.
He gleefully began to paint upon the side that was fresh and new,
But then he saw the other side was simply bleeding through.
“I don’t understand, I started over,” the painter cried.
He glanced at the brush in his hand, at the power held inside.
It dawned upon the painter that hiding sin is flawed.
So what he needed to do, then, was simply give it to God.
The painter saw what was needed to make the sin turn white.
“I can’t attempt to hide it, what I need is the Spirit’s light.”
He picked up the paper and turned it, the sin was not at a loss.
Still the painter held it up to the window, to the light of Jesus’ Cross.
You see, a single small glass Crucifix lay hanging on the pane,
and the sunlight streaming through it caused the sin to wane.
The fiery cross erased the sin, chased away the dark.
And the only thing now worth cleansing was the painter’s open heart.
“This is what you told me, when you died up on that Cross.
I’ve been searching timelessly to discover the name of my loss.
I need you, my God, my savior, as I carry out the day.
I see you now, more clearly, You are the only way.
No longer will I let my curiosity get the better of me,
I will fight my temptation daily, now that You’ve let me see.
All the powers of Hell are powerless in your sight,
And all the darkest colors are bleached in your great light.”
He cast aside the painting and took up a fresh light shade.
He was now to paint for the Lord and he had no reason to be afraid.**
When I was 15, I was a sophomore.
Everything changed for me when I was a sophomore in high school, five years ago.
I can’t tell you exactly what the date was, or exactly what it was that pushed me over the edge, but sophomore year I was free-falling in a faith that had never seemed so alive to me.
I found a parish that felt like home, a place I would eventually call my home officially once I became a parish member the week I turned 18.
Introduction into this parish, this community, and this family shaped my faith in many ways, and I sketched this poem quickly as a way of trying to explain my new faith in words.
And so, with a budding conviction and renewed relationship with God blooming inside of me, this poem came to pass, and I knew that what my life had been missing was Christ.
Unfortunately, I became the same painter I spoke of in my poem. Over the years, I became that painter whose curiosity got the better of him over and over, and he explored sin simply because it was present and seemed interesting.
I became that painter who tried in vain to paint over my sin and my struggle, hoping to hide it from close friends or members of my Church so I wouldn’t be judged or looked down upon.
And every time I bleached the darkness out of my life, I would paint it back in no time at all.
What amazes me about this poem is that in the last five years, I haven’t read it much. I’ve had it hiding on a thumb drive, and tonight is the first time I’ve gone over it in sometime.
With – yet again – a renewed faith, I read this elementary poem that a young naive Anna wrote at 15, when she was unaware of the years that were yet to come which would shake the foundation of the very faith she tried to put into words that October she wrote it.
With a deepened, renewed, matured, and even experienced faith, I am able to glean new pieces of wisdom from this piece that I wasn’t able to understand before.
A painter grows curious over what it would be like to paint a human with tangible sin, noting that using dark colors could be a vehicle for representing this nebulous ideal. After painting his depiction of sin, it scared him because he realized that it isn’t just any painting, sin is real. So he attempted to hide it, by painting over it with white and eventually flipping it over and painting on the back. It is only after he sees a suncatcher on the window in the shape of a Cross with a brilliant light shining through that he realizes he needs to hold the color up to the light so the light can fade away the paint pigment and he can start anew.
Seems elementary, innocent, almost…trite, to be honest.
What’s so trite about this poem, that story I just told, is that I assumed that knowing that Jesus is missing from your life should be enough to save you.
But I know better now, five years later.
You need so much more in life than to simply know you need Jesus, then to just simply start over and succeed and carry on just painting for the Lord until He calls you home.
No, in my deepened, renewed, matured, and even experienced faith, I am able to glean new pieces of wisdom from this piece that I wasn’t able to understand before.
I am able to appreciate the struggle.
What this artist must have felt, when he was shamefully and hurriedly painting over his depiction of sin with globs of white paint…what this artist must have been thinking when he was attempting to start over on the back of his older painting and the previous kept rearing its ugly head by seeping into his new work…
I can appreciate that now in ways I couldn’t when I was 15.
I have lost friends, close ones. I lost a boyfriend. I had many lonely nights, angry nights, wistful nights, sad nights.
I lost many battles.
I can appreciate greatly what this painter goes through, because I have been there, too.
And so I can appreciate too the relief and joy and perhaps even surprise that this painter felt when he opened his heart and his life up for God to clear away all the sin and darkness.
But I am at a point in my life now where I can’t just pick up a brush and not be afraid anymore.
Oh, to be 15 and naive again.
You think it’s as easy as that?
No, truly, I have a lot of fear and worry in my heart.
I know that if God is for me, no one can be against me.
I know also that God has already won.
But I’m a woman. A human being.
I’m going to be afraid of the future, afraid of change.
This blog, as well as simply living out my faith in radical ways on a radically secular campus among secular friends, is my paintbrush.
This blog is my way of painting for the Lord.
And yes, I am very afraid.
I will be persecuted in the future, and I have been persecuted in the past.
I know I will stand before the powers of Hell and death will be at my side – and I know that I will be safe.
I am afraid.
To harken back to another post I wrote, I know I must surrender complete control over to God, though He has it regardless.
I know that there is a plan, a good one.
I know I’ll be okay.
I cannot be the only one who longs for the “good old days.” For me, the good old days were around the time of my second semester of senior year. I was flying high, on top of the world.
It’s only gotten harder from there, and I imagine you who are advanced in years beyond me will say it never gets any easier.
But this, then, is the crux of the matter.
For what is easy has never been worth the same amount as what is difficult.
A friend of mine used to always say to me “nothing worth having comes easy.” I can still hear him saying it.
Yet how true this adage is, though we seem to put it in a trite little saying, packaged in plastic and lost of its nutrients.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
The painter realized that, and he went through quite a few sticky situations before realizing what it was he was supposed to be doing – he could do anything, as long as it was in the Lord’s name.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
When has faith ever been easy?
Ask St. Stephen. Ask St. Agnes. St.Peter. Sts. Lucy and Cecilia.
Ask the Christians in the Holy Land, or hidden in countries where practicing Christianity is punishable with extreme means, such as arrest – or worse.
Ask the lonely kids who get teased on the playground on Ash Wednesday for having a black mark on their forehead. Ask the lonely college students who get stares when they pass on that second beer or decline a grabby hand or lascivious grin.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
I am reminded throughout my struggles and suffering of St. Teresa of Avila, who, upon being thrown off of her horse and into the mud, told God dryly “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have many.”
You are not an exception. You don’t get special treatment because you’ve said x many rosaries and you named your son after the Pope.
No, truly, if you expect to be called a friend of God, expect suffering and struggles.
Even when you pick up your paintbrush to paint for the Lord, do not expect it to be as easy as I thought it would be when I was 15.
Expect it to suck, basically.
But expect to win, too.
They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the LORD, to deliver you.
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
I am reminded too of someone who once told me, “If love doesn’t hurt, you’re doing it wrong.”
Yes, love until it hurts. Have faith even when you are punished for it. Enter into the fight, let your friend walk away, let your boyfriend or spouse or family member leave out of disdain for your faith.
Nothing worth having comes easy.
And so, I continue to read over this poem that I wrote when I was 15, before my world changed, before my faith knew sorrows and struggles.
I continue to smile at the painter’s futile attempts to do anything other than offer his sins to Christ.
And I laugh at the closing segment, when the painter says he swears off sin and temptation and it will never touch him again – after all, he’s doing the Lord’s work, and what harm could come from that?
Much earthly harm could – will – come from that.
I promise you, you will have troubles. You will suffer. You will struggle.
But you will win.
Nothing worth having comes easy, and as hard as Christ fought – to the death! – for you, so too should you accept the fight for Him.
He will make it worth your while.
This blog is my paintbrush, and I am afraid.
But it’s worth it.
**When I was 15, I sent this out to a few friends and received some backlash that it could be construed as racist. As such, I edited my original poem to remove the word “black.” My intention with this poem is never, nor ever has been, to take a racial stance in any way, and I am always striving to promote the dignity of every human in my works.