The absent minded octogenarian was almost a dead ringer for Albert Einstein, only taller. I was trying to mind my own business in the art supply store when the elderly gentleman asked for my assistance. Realizing that someday I may be in his shoes, I was glad to help if I could. He was trying to make a selection of some of the detail brushes, but was having difficulty reading the size on them. "I left my glasses in the car, and I can't make out what this reads." After discussing the various sizes and types, and after asking me to repeat what I said only louder a couple of times, he confessed he also forgot to put in his hearing aids before he left the house. I was in awe because to me he embodied the absent minded genius, artistically speaking. He may not have been able to recite the periodic table of the elements, but I could tell he was passionate about painting and had many years of experience. He was friendly and enthusiastic, yet didn't seem to be self absorbed when I asked him about what he enjoys painting and in what medium.
Surprisingly, his answer was not that memorable. I think he said he does mostly portraits in oil. He did not whip out a phone to show me or tell me his name or push his business cards. If he had a smart phone, I doubt that he kept it with him much. I sensed that to him extraneous things like that are a waste of time. He quickly turned the focus onto me and asked if I was an artist. "Why, yes sir, I am." I think he then asked me similar questions about what I like to paint and in what medium. Then with a twinkle in his eye, he turned to me and exhorted, "Paint on, Bro'!!" In a flash he was gone, off to attend to the business at hand.
For an artist, that had to be the three most encouraging words I had heard in a long time. His presence and camaraderie and words made me want to sit under his tutelage and watch him at work, learning everything I could. I have not seen him since. I have no idea where he is from. Although I am not saying he was an angel, He reminded me of the passing angels of the Bible, when people longed for answers, direction, and encouragement in life. God sent the angels at just the right time. Those encounters proved to be other worldly for the moment and where the divine counsel intersected with the human experience. Realizing that they were encountering transcendence and something wonderful, they wanted to know everything about the celestial being, including name. However, those angels were evasive and vague when it came to themselves:
"Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, 'What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?' He replied, 'Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.'" Judges 13:17-18
Even the Apostle John was tempted to elevate an angel too high when he was exiled on the island of Patmos:
"At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'" Revelation 19:10
They were there for a singular purpose: to direct the humans' attention to God and to give the encouragement and help they needed. One could learn much from the study of angels in the Bible, but suffice it to say they are intended as messengers and defenders from God.
The exhortation from the gentleman helps me also to remember that no matter what negative experiences come my way or whatever head trash is taking up too much space and needs to be taken out, the artist needs to keep painting, or using whatever medium with which one is gifted. It's not about Facebook likes or other accolades, nice as it can feel. It's about keeping on, even when the world around us doesn't care or deem what we do as important. The inner peace that comes from God keeps us grounded, and the sense of purpose that He gives keeps us moving forward. How about you? Whether you are a musician or an artist or a doctor or an attorney or an educator or a manager or a coach or a nurse or a maintenance person or a farmer, what keeps you going? What encounters have you had that were an encouragement to you and put or kept you on the right track? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comment section below if you like!