This one is etched in my memory.  I often call it my “favourite Keirsten story.” It’s definitely up there.  She had to be about 4 years old, head and arms sticking through three holes in an inverted Walmart bag.  

Who pays money for paint smocks, really??  

Protruding from either side of her head were auburn pony tails, maybe 4 – 5 inches long like little waterspouts.  You can picture it, can’t you?  Honestly, my baby girl has always been the most adorable thing.  Red hair, big chocolate brown eyes, a rosebud mouth and a way of bending her eyebrows that even at 4 years old spelled, “I do not seek your approval, and I am not to be messed with.”

To call her strong willed is to call the ocean wet.  When Keirsten sets her mind on something, she makes it happen.  (One day I will tell you the story of how an 8 foot tall stuffed giraffe moved in to my home, but I’m saving that one for now.)  She has never been concerned with fitting in.  Wait, let me rephrase that.  To Keirsten, the idea of fitting in is utterly repugnant.  If everyone else is wearing solid colours, she wants a Hawaiian shirt.  While the rest of the class is taking photos of flowers, she finds a really unusual angle on the rusty hinge of the gate the flowers are climbing.  She has been this way as long as I can remember.

So on this memorable day, Keirsten and I were in the kitchen.  Her big brother was at school and her baby brother was asleep.  Near where I was working, I had set up the easel that our next door neighbour, who will forever be lovingly remembered as Grandma Kerry, had given her just a few weeks earlier.  Keirsten worked feverishly, dipping multiple brushes into various pots of coloured tempera paints.  After quite some time, she flipped a sheet over on the giant pad of paper and set to work on a second.  We worked quietly together.  I, washing dishes, she, creating. 

At last, she was ready to reveal her masterpiece.  She called me over and flipped to the first painting.  Over the years I have searched for the words to best describe it.  Nothing quite invokes it, but let’s go with – the results of the deployment of a confetti canon. Every colour she had in her arsenal was represented along with several blends.  There were swirls and dots, stripes and spots.  It looked like joy, like a festival, like a celebration.  As I surveyed the painting, she looked me dead in the eye and said, “When I look at the sun, that’s what I see.”  

I was a little taken aback, not really sure what she meant, but she wasn’t finished.  She flipped the page to reveal a blue stripe along the bottom of a sheet of paper.  There was a yellow circle in the top corner with yellow lines protruding from it. She looked at the painting with something like disgust and announced, “That’s what everyone else sees.”

Honestly, I don’t think I even responded.  I mean, what kind of 4 year old says something like that?  And the attitude?  What exactly is a mom supposed to say to that?   At four years old she had already decided she was surrounded by perceptual Neanderthals, and she pitied us.  In that moment, I understood for the first time that I was raising an artist.  

But it was only later, as I reflected on it, that I realized I was also raising a non-conformist.  

I have spent a fair bit of time over the years thinking about Romans 12:2.  It’s quite the challenging little instruction we are given there –  Don’t be conformed anymore to the pattern of this world.  Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  I think I dwell on it because it comes with a promise that when we choose to be transformed, rather than to conform, that we will have the joy of testing God’s will and finding it to be good, and pleasing and perfect.  I am all about discovering that the life I am in is good and pleasing and perfect.  If I’m honest, that isn’t always my assessment of my situation.  But this verse promises me that as I am transformed by the renewing of my mind, both my life and my perception of it will be altered.  So I am in.  I want to be transformed.  I’m tired of conforming.  Frankly, this world kinda stinks and I don’t want to be like it.  So how do I stop conforming?  

Well, here’s what I’ve learned about not conforming.  Humans aren’t very good at it.  We just naturally conform to our environment.  If the people around us are anxious and grumpy, we are more likely to become anxious and grumpy.  If we are around optimistic people who are excited about the future, we are more likely to look forward to what is coming.  So just choosing to be different from everything around us is hard.  See, if I tried to paint “how I see the sun” and to make it different than how everyone else sees it, I would be at a loss.  If everyone I know paints a yellow ball with lines sticking out of it, I’m probably going to paint a yellow ball with lines sticking out of it.  If I want to paint the sun differently, I need to see the sun differently. I need different eyes.  I need my perspective to change.  I need my sight to be transformed.  And when my sight is transformed, then my eyes will never perceive just a yellow ball in the sky again.  It won’t be that I don’t conform because I just don’t want to.  It will be that I can’t conform to that old way of seeing, because my eyes have been transformed.

So how do we get new eyes?  They are a gift God is offering us.  He offers to change the way we see.  Not what we see.  How we see it.  He offers to give us a new perspective.  And we are given that perspective when we spend time with him, when we spend time reading his word and asking him to teach us in it.  It was in listening to sermons from Alistair Begg that I learned to pray a simple prayer before I begin reading my Bible each day.  (And I am butchering what I know he prayed much more poetically) The essence of the prayer is this, “Lord, open this book to me.  Show me yourself.  Show me myself.  Make me more like you.”  

As we spend time in God’s word, as we see him in it, as we see ourselves reflected in it, it changes us.  It renews us.  It transforms us and, over time, we are less and less conformed to the stark, artless, yellow-ball-suspended-over-a-blue-stripe world that “everyone else” sees, and we begin to see the brightly coloured confetti canon full of celebration and joy that is our future hope in Jesus.

May I challenge you this week to wander slowly through the pages of God’s word?  May I encourage you to ask God to open his book and open your eyes?  May I invite you to allow God to renew your mind and transform you just a little more into the image of his son Jesus?

Oh! And if he teaches you something cool, please share.  God made us a family so that we could learn from one another. 

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