By Duane R. Miller*
This began as a good friend’s response to the series I just completed about finding our true selves using the metaphor of removing the paint (social roles, learned behavior, etc.) that covers up the “true grain” of our personal characters. What if you reverse the metaphor? Does this come closer to your experience?
Thanks, Duane, for letting me use this.
I’ve been reading your [Second Half] blog using the metaphor of a chair that has been painted many times and what it means to strip the layers of paint and find out what is really underneath it all.
The idea seems to be that if you scrape away all the layers of stuff that have been put on you throughout your professional life, you will discover again who you really are.
While your writing is always enjoyable and insightful, there is something about using this image that didn’t sit quite right with me.
I think I have discovered why.
In your image, all your experiences, the layers of paint, are covering up who you really are. Why can’t your experiences and the way you deal with them add new dimensions to whom you are meant to become?
I am going to risk suggesting the metaphor of seeing your life as doing/making a painting.
I’d call the painting: “The Expression of The Spirit through My Life.”
I suggest that each set of experiences might be like
adding a color to the painting.
When you are faced with different experiences and you have to find a way to respond, see that as adding a new color. Any time in our lives can be a good time to look at the overall painting. Maybe you added too much of one color or not enough of another and so you might go back to add some more of one color or cover up some of another.
But you never totally eliminate a color because all of them are needed to express how The Spirit is leading you through your life.
The primary question should always be,
“What should be the next color
that would complement
and bring out the meaning
of all the colors that are already there?”
When I’m quietly listening to that small but insistent voice from within that is also somehow coming from beyond – listening for where it is now leading or directing me. What color can I now add that would make the painting more coherent, meaningful and beautiful?
How do I take what I have learned from painful as well as fulfilling experiences and add thoughts and experiences that help reveal where God/Spirit now wants to lead me?
If I understand the creation of paintings, the painter may have a notion of what the painting is going to look like but, at each stage, each addition of a color, artists discover something that they couldn’t have anticipated ahead of time. So the addition of each new color is a creative discovery of something you didn’t know was possible before you got to that point in your painting or your life.
Retirement provides a great time to review your life but also to meditate on how God/Spirit wants/encourages you to put it all together so you can rejoice in the abundance of what your life has provided and will continue to give.
*Dr. Duane Miller served as a college chaplain and seminary administrator. He also pastored churches in upstate New York and founded a non-profit community service organization. He is the author of The Memes of My Life: How Integral Thought Illuminated Personal Experiences.