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Dave Brisbin

Road Not Taken

When we were kids, my sister did a paint-by-number of Da Vinci’s Last Supper. You know, where the image is preprinted as numbered areas you fill in with the matching-numbered paint. It looked ok squinting at it from across the room, but imagine the difference between painting by numbers and the original master, creating and mixing his own paints and working from the depths of his experience as a human.

Jesus is trying to take us from painting by numbers to true spiritual expression. The Pharisees of his day had created a numbered approach to God, matching behavior to legal codes that, squinting from a distance, looked like righteousness…but Jesus knew better. The gospels show him systematically dismantling that system, but every generation, left to its own devices, goes Pharisee, devolves to a paint-by-number mentality because it feels controllable. Risk-free behavior and reward. Jesus is practically shouting to all of us that our behavior has nothing to do with God’s love.

Nothing we do or don’t do can change what God is—oneness, love itself. But our behavior has everything to do with whether we will experience the oneness of God’s love. It’s inside out, like the artist’s way. Creative expression can’t be numbered. It flows from the whole of the artist’s being onto the canvas. It’s undefended, unhindered, vulnerably transparent, or it won’t connect with others. Not now, certainly not centuries later. You can’t obey your way to a masterpiece. You allow its flow. How many of us risk that permission?

When Jesus says the road to destruction is broad and the road to life is narrow and few find it, we imagine he’s talking about heaven and hell. But do we really think God created most of us for eternal torment? Is that the God Jesus says is good news? Critically, his context, Hebrew context, is always here and now. Few people are willing to risk the unknowns of the artist’s way of vulnerable transparency to find an experience of oneness, God’s love and good news, in their lives right herenow.

The road less traveled may seem risky—why it’s most often not taken. But it makes all the difference.


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