Many many years ago now I remember hearing a story in church. I couldn’t locate it on Google but the basic gist of it is this. A priest talking to his Archbishop is complaining about how much sin all his parishioners had staining their souls and he despaired that he couldn’t get a single one of his flock to heaven. The Archbishop asked the priest to give him the night to think about it. When the priest walked into his church the next day a painting on a trestle sat in the front of the alter. It was blank except for a smudge in the middle of the canvas. The Archbishop walked in and asked the priest what he saw on the painting. The priest answered he saw a black smudge to which the Archbishop answered yet so much of the canvas is white and all you focus on is the smudge. The Archbishop then said his flock was like this painting, they had a smudge of sin and as a priest that was all he was concentrating on, he needed to see the white that surrounds each parishioner as well as the smudge.
I’m not always like most people and I completely ignored the moral of the story. I remember sitting there in church thinking there is so much you could do with that smudge. It could be the button on the front of a clown, the shield of a warrior fighting a dragon, a rain cloud hovering over a desert and within the next 10 minutes I was daydreaming dozens of different things that smudge could be turned into on such a blank canvas with a bit of effort. To me that smudge on the soul was a good start.
To me that’s how life has always been. It doesn’t matter how the smudges got onto the white canvas, it doesn’t matter how much white there is. That canvas is the story of your life. We aren’t meant to have a white canvas or a black canvas. We are meant to take the smudges life leaves behind and turn them into epic battles with heroes, love stories or stories of heartache, moments of joy and happiness, stories of birth and death, adventure and mystery. We have to take those smudges and use them to create our story. Those smudges are a good start, they give creativity a place to anchor and build from so we can create the story of our life that is truly amazing.
So the moral of the story I got from that parable was this; The smudges in your past define you, but it isn’t the end of the story. You have a life left to live and you can build on those smudges and define your life as something even better and more wonderful.