It was an idyllic setting.
A tiny boutique restaurant atop a bluff overlooking the rugged coastline of Portsalon in County Donegal, Northern Ireland. The quaint, elegant café was a favorite of the locals. It didn’t take me long to understand why.
Across the bay lined with the small fishing boats responsible for some of what we were about to eat, was a hillside so lush and verdant that it seemed to shimmer with life. As the sun was setting it cast its fading light on the hillside which responded with the sparkle and glimmer reminiscent of the emerald after which the island is nicknamed.
I had wanted to visit Ireland for years and the fact that I was on the company dime made the day there even better. My business companion was an Irishman through and through, taking me midday to a tiny country pub for a hand-drawn Guinness I fear I will never experience again.
He took note of my fascination with the gorgeous landscape and said quietly in his native tongue: “De Fartaí Séaids of Grín”. My puzzled look gave him the clue he needed to translate for me: “The forty shades of green”.
Owen explained that long before Johnny Cash made the saying famous in his Celtic ballad, this moniker had been used to describe the Emerald Isle for generations. Ireland is not limited to any single shade of green. In fact the “Emerald” designation came from the gem in which it was said Ireland’s forty shades were hidden.
I looked across the bay again and saw olive, turquoise, forest, jade, teal, shamrock, pine, viridian—every shade I could image glistened vividly before my eyes. The lush hillside was a mottled quilt of green tones and hues…many of which may not even have a proper name.
It struck me. That patchwork of seemingly endless shades of green came from the blending of only two dominant colors: yellow and blue. A slight differentiation in the mix created different tones…one after another after another.
There are only three primary colors from which artists create. Red. Yellow. Blue. By mixing these colors, every shade and hue in every masterpiece hanging in every gallery around the world has been made.
Our lives are the masterpieces God is painting and our hearts are the palette from which He draws the needed colors.
I have imagined that my heart’s palette has but three colors which He masterfully blends to paint a life worth displaying in the gallery of grace.
Impurities and imperfections have often been mixed into the colors of my heart creating ugly, unsightly blotches in His work. But with strokes of grace and a vision of the finished work, the Artist skillfully fixes every flaw.
So I asked myself, what are the primary colors of my heart that if uncontaminated and unfiltered can be blended into a soul-work worthy of the Artist’s signature?
These are the three primary colors of the transformed heart.
- Celebration. The Biblical term for “rejoice” literally means “express the gladness and beauty of the heart”. We are to do this “always” which literally means “for as long as circumstances persist”. Celebration is the bright hue that lends sparkle and brilliance to the life God is creating. When we revel in the long view of life, we get to see the atmosphere of eternity expressed in the landscape of the daily.
- Passion. The word “pray” at its root means to “express the deepest desires to God”. This unveiling of the soul is to be incessant and uninterrupted, “without ceasing”. Paul isn’t recommending we utter an endless string of words in a continual stream of prayer. He speaks of living an open, transparent life where the deepest issues of the heart are on display before God all the time.
- Appreciation. “Give thanks” is the word from which we get our term “Eucharist”—often used in reference to the celebration of the Holy Communion. The primary root of that word is “charis”—grace. Live in grace in all circumstances. Gratitude comes from a firm understanding that we are alive in, for and because of grace alone. We are continuously thankful as we live in the “favor” of God–we can each smile gratefully as God’s “favorite”.
When these primary colors are blended, beauty begins to emerge from the blank canvas of our lives. The old Apostle says: “…for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
The root of the word “will” integrates three concepts–design, desire and delight.
God’s will is what He designs–what He imagines in His dreams; desires–what He longs to see in real life; delights in–what makes Him dance when it happens.
What makes God happy is when we open our lives in celebration, passion and appreciation and allow Him to create what he dreamed our lives could be. His desire is to see us emerge as a display of His glory–a masterwork of His design where our lives are lived as they were meant to be. The fruit will be peace and purpose because the tension between what is and what should be is continually lessened as our lives fit in the beautiful pattern of His will.
Then our lives will be described as forty shades of…grace.
*1 Thessalonians 5:16-18