Paul Thorson with Painting In The Dark has wrecked me – in a good way. The book knocked me first with this question: "What is the truest thing about me?" (p.8) Since that time, I've finished reading, and it has been able to stretch and challenge me into the depths of what's usually forbidden territory, inside of me.
Thorson shares his own story, his own testimony, his own journey of how God has molded him into who he is today and probably prepared him for what's to come ahead. As a teacher, missionary, and church-planter in the Ukraine, one is supposed to have all the answers figured out to all the questions – but sadly, but rightly I think, this isn't true. And his own realization of this comes out through his words.
King Solomon, the wisest man of his day, writes. "As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he" (Prov 23:7, nkjv) How do I think "right" thoughts about myself in my heart and quiet the voices that rumble around in my head? How can I keep myself from allowing people who are just as insecure as I am to pass judgment as to whether or not I have value as a person? It's crazy to give others so much power over me, but I do. and the way I think about myself is often the window through which others see me…. Sometimes I seem to have only glimpses of truth, only snatches and phrases of disconnected realities. but my soul craves something or someone infinitely more satisfying. (pp. 21-22)
I was told that I was loved as I was, not as I should be. That my selfishness and foolishness weren't the worst things about me. What was the worst thing that could be said about me? I had stared into the face of perfection and sneered. What an ugly image. I never remember hating God. I disdained Him through my indifference to Him. Yet He still loved me…God wasn't asking me to understand it; He was asking me to believe it! To believe it not out of a blind faith, but to believe it because of what I knew about Him and in spite of what I knew about me. (p. 26, 28)
Whether we are in formal leadership roles or not, underneath any cultural reasons for our self-protection are pride and unbelief. We misunderstand something. We think others will be drawn to Christ by our changed life, but it's our changing life that connects our realities with their realities. That's what interests them: the process, the in-between. (p. 43)
Is it possible Gideon is saying, "Give me these signs because I don't trust my ability to recognize Your will? I want to do Your will, and I need to be sure this is it. It's not that I think You are not trustworthy, Lord – I'm just not sure about myself." (p. 125)
I'm hoping the disjointedness of the quotes pulled out above will actually make an impression of the process as Thorson has described. He stays biblically grounded and astute, and still pulls that last nugget out on Gideon that really tweaks my thoughts on what might've been going through his head when God was leading him to lead Israel – and how many times do we really hear from God and then write it off for our own fear or our own lack of understanding? How many times have I missed God because I'm afraid to confront Him with my doubt, with my lack, with my own perception of what's still lacking?
Painting In The Dark flips on a switch in a dark room – but only for a moment, giving just a quick glimpse at what the room looks like. But then it's flicked back off, leaving it to me to navigate through the darkness with what little light I've been entrusted. It's my own walk, my own journey alongside as I've read of his struggles and successes. I've appreciated this one more than some others for its real-ness and honesty, and I hope I can lend this one out to a few others who might find themselves longing for someone else to flip the switch, too.