During the season of Easter, or Eastertide, the fifty days that stretch between the day of resurrection and the birth of Pentecost, the church continues to ponder the surprise of the empty tomb, the glory of Easter morning, and the gift of a new beginning. We have an opportunity to begin again in the grace of God. A chance to start over is what many of us truly desire, but it is also what many of us truthfully fear.
We all yearn for a clean slate, forgotten past, forgiven record, and fresh start, but a second chance does not come without fear. Along with the opportunity to begin again is the fear of starting over, for a second chance is too sacred to risk. It is the fear of a blank canvas, where there are many chances for a mistake that will jeopardize this rare and new opportunity.
Standing in front of a blank canvas, the artist's goal is to create something meaningful that yields beauty and not simply to hang a picture on the wall that will hide the hole behind it. Confronted with such an important task, we are afraid to fail. It may feel easier to simply hide the hole in the wall. Our old mistakes are enough to shoulder without the possibility of flopping at a fresh start.
Imagine the choices facing a budding artist. A novice painter has no reputation in which to depend, no style to call her own, and no confidence from previous experience. Looking at a blank canvas can be exciting, but also paralyzing. An artist must decide where to start without knowing how the final painting will look.
This might be why more children use crayons than adults. They have no fear of failure, only a willing innocence. For those over the age of eight, though, a blank canvas is terrifying. We need what the budding artist needs; we need a willing innocence fostered by hope. We need to know that a blank canvas can become a masterpiece, a meaningful painting that is cherished and hung on the wall. It is hope that drives the budding artist, as she creates something new.
We need second chances, new beginnings, and fresh starts, but we also need hope, for without it, we can just stand there looking at a perfectly good blank canvas. We need to simply start painting, holding back any fear, for the second step is only discovered after taking the first step. We may not know what the final painting will look like when we begin. In fact, not knowing what the painting will look like could be indispensible, so that we always lean towards the help of others and the help of God as we begin again.
Life is not a paint-by-numbers project, but we are given direction by the rhythm and practices of the church. Like the music that an artist plays in the background while she is working, the beloved community, reverence of worship, and grace-filled ministry of the church provide rhythm for our work, instilling hope in us in the face of fear. We begin again in the season of Easter, knowing that each new beginning is sealed with the hope of God.