In the Upper School, the month of May is intense: thesis defenses, final exams, Senior Baccalaureate, and graduation make for an exciting, though tension-filled, end of a year. As a natural introvert serving in a calling that requires me to live outside my comfort zone, the final days of a school year can get to me. On occasion I find myself tired, stressed, and in need of some encouragement.
I was in just such a state in the final week of school this year. I walked into my office at the end of a rough day and threw myself into an armchair. My eyes wandered to find a package on my desk, neatly wrapped in forest green tissue paper. A plain white card was attached, which only read, “From a grateful student.”
I get thoughtful gifts of appreciation on occasion; however, this particular package was more than I could have possibly imagined. It was light, so I opened it carefully. Peeling aside the wrapping paper, I found a beautiful piece of student art. The impressionist painting showed a path leading under the eaves of a great forest. A lone traveler stood far within, a mysterious shadow in the distance, inviting the observer to follow.
As a self-styled outdoorsman, at first I didn’t think any more of the subject of the painting; I just thought a student knew of my love for landscapes and painted something nice for me. It wasn’t until I turned the painting over that I realized what I was looking at. On the frame of the canvas was written the title “The Golden Wood.”
The painting from a student representing a subject so near and dear to me affected me deeply. The heavy weight of the end-of-the-year rush withered away, and I was immediately encouraged and hopeful that God was at work in my life, sustaining me through a difficult week. That the artist was thoughtful enough to give the gift anonymously, and thereby “not let [his] left hand know what [his] right hand was doing” – was evidence to me that the gift was given truly and out of love, for my encouragement, and not for any gain of the artist. What a beautiful thing!
Galatians 5:13-14 reads in part, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” While I don’t know any specifics around the painting – who the artist is, if the subject was truly inspired by this blog, or under what circumstances it came to be – I am fairly certain the thoughtful nature of the gift was not compelled by Mosaic Law, nor the mandate of any teachers or parents. It was instead the product of a teenage student, called to liberty, and using that liberty to serve others in love.