All things work together for good to those who love God
For as long as I can remember, I have loved painting. By high school, I was art-obsessed and in enough art class electives to consider myself an “artist.” In my twenties, a somewhat bizarre obsession formed: painting bacon. Yes, you read that correctly, bacon paintings. No, not paintings on bacon, paintings of bacon, America’s favorite cured meat.
The dozens upon dozens of bacon paintings I made were meditative for me. Are you laughing yet? I know, it’s absurd. I could go on and on (in geeky artist-speak) talking about why I chose to paint them in the raw state, positioned in parallel, horizontal strips, and typically set upon a green background. I could explain how fun it was to contrast the buttery, luminosity of my favorite oil paint color (alizarin crimson) with the opacity of white. I could point out how my choice to play with various hues of green in the background was because of green’s opposition to red on the color wheel and how that really seemed to make the bacon ‘pop.’ And if you weren’t already bored with my ramblings, I’d tell you how I could get lost in the almost landscape-quality of the meat’s fatty striations.
I warned you, it’s absurd, but my obsession with bacon paintings made way for a really cool story.
When I became a mother, and fully embraced motherhood as my primary role, initially I left minimal time for my former passion of painting. But very quickly, I started to feel the itch to have time and space to paint again. Right around that same time, we had committed to pursuing adoption for the future growth of our family and then our church announced a “campaign.” It was pretty clear to us that God decided those were both worthy causes for our investment, but nonetheless, these factors were a hefty chunk of our single-income family budget. We could do little things to accommodate savings – like forgo cable, continue to carry dumbphones instead of upgrading to smartphones, dine-out only occasionally, and trade with other families instead of paying for babysitters. We made it all happen within our means, but that didn’t prevent my guilt from having “art studio rent” on our monthly budget. Could we really afford to accommodate my bacon painting hobby?
But then something happened at church…
One of our pastors invited his father into town and he spoke from a seat at a dining table on stage, about his memories around, and the importance of, big family breakfasts… pancakes, biscuits, honey bacon and all. At the close of the church service, the worship leader jokingly sang in refrain: “God’s love is, God’s love is…. baaaaaacon!” As we left our church’s auditorium, the ushers were awaiting us with platters and tongs, giving us each a strip of bacon as we left the building. As I gnawed on my bacon I giggled and wondered: is this God’s way of saying. “Carry-on with the bacon painting, my daughter!” To a bacon-painting artist, this was the validation I needed!
So I did, I carried on with reckless abandon! The paintings got bigger, and more ambitious. My son and I had a lot of fun making art together in that studio space, and it was an oasis of relief when I could get opportunities away from my homemaker responsibilities and work there alone. It was also a wonderful way to occupy the ‘wait’ involved in the simultaneous adoption process.
Though we did not know her, our adoption social worker just so happened to also attend our church (it’s a big church, one of those really big ones). When she came to our home for part of the assessments, she immediately noticed one of my bacon paintings on display above our dining room table. In reference to our pastor’s love of bacon at the infamous “breakfast sermon” she proclaimed “You have to give one to Pastor Chuck!” The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but considering that our pastor loves bacon and appreciates art, I took her suggestion seriously, after all, she was our social worker so I was prepared to do whatever she asked.
The wait to grow our family went on and on… into the next year… and then the next… And then finally, the day after we made our final payment to fulfill our church campaign commitment, our adoption agency called! A baby girl had been born. She was ours. And in three days we were to come meet her.
A few months later, I was driving home from the art studio, a couple of bacon paintings were in my trunk. As I drove past our church toward home, I remembered that I still needed to follow through on my social worker’s suggestion, so I stopped at the church office. I walked in and handed a big, double-slice bacon painting to the receptionist and asked “Can you please give this to Pastor Chuck?” She looked confused and asked if I had an appointment or wanted to leave a note “No.” I responded. I figured I’d let my art do the talking and leave the gift anonymously.
One Sunday morning later, I was sitting in the church balcony when Pastor Chuck gave a sermon where he managed to, once again, incorporate his love of bacon into the message. This time, he used my painting as a visual aid!
I was dumbfounded, in giggly, sweaty disbelief as he also worked in two quotes from U2’s Bono into the sermon! Chuck didn’t know me from the tens of thousands who attend our church weekly. He had no way of knowing that the painting was from someone with one solitary tattoo, a symbol borrowed from U2’s Elevation Tour. Bono, himself an artist, was one whose music broke through the calluses of my heart and inspired my path to becoming a believer. Bacon and U2!? This sermon was a gift to my heart and Chuck couldn’t possibly have known!
A couple of months later, my husband and I were invited to a celebration marking the fulfillment of our campaign commitment. Pastor Chuck was there and greeting as many folks as he could. When he approached us, I introduced myself as a “bacon painter.” Together we laughed as I got the pleasure of telling him the whole back-story. Chuck said that he was grateful to know the details behind the mystery gift, he was glad for this opportunity to share that he had gotten a couple of e-mails after the recent bacon-y sermon. They were e-mails essentially telling him that something about his message had broken through their lives and had put faith into a perspective where they could finally put their hope in Jesus! I laughed in amused disbelief and my heart raced in humble awe that somehow, my art could be used to turn hearts.
God will use it all, every single bit for His glory if He wants to. Pastors, financial gifts, breakfast tables, orphans, the words of a rockstar. and yes, even a painting of bacon made by a stay-at-home mom. He can use anything He wants to bend hearts toward His love.
We don’t always get to glimpse the ripples that our efforts make, but I believe we have a loving God who has a great sense of humor and takes immense delight in using all things for His glory. Especially, the gifts He has given us (sometimes even the ones that turn to bizarre obsessions). It’s all His stuff anyway. It has been since the beginning.