Why do I tell a story along with each of my paintings? Is not the sole purpose of the artist to create a work of art and the job of the viewer to find meaning? By sharing my story I do not intend to hinder or stunt the viewer’s ability to glean new or personal insights, but simply to present a foundation for reflection. The process of painting is a means for me to deepen my personal relationship with Christ and a finished painting is an outlet for others to plug into the Good News of the Gospel. Not everyone will seek or find my intentional symbolism, but that’s ok with me. The following compilation of notes is an attempt to share my journey of revelation and truth while painting Open Door, 2011.
Before we begin diving into the spiritual significance of the painting, I will share two primary secrets. First, I only paint with a pallet knife. I did not begin painting until my freshmen year at St. Olaf College and I naturally picked up the knife. I was drawn to the thickness of paint that I could spread across the canvas and the freedom that came with the loose, uncontrolled strokes of the pallet knife. Second, at the beginning of every painting I choose an obnoxious or vibrant color to paint the base coat of the canvas. It not only covers up the intimidating pure white, but it also motivates me to paint the canvas faster. There is a beautiful element of surprise when I let loose, paint quickly, and allow the paint and pallet knife to interact with the canvas without reservation or fear of making a mistake.
The significance of the door image is two fold. At first discovery, the door symbolized me seeking God and later I found that the door was also a means for God to seek me.
“[Jesus says,] ‘I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,
and will go in and out and find pasture.’” John 10:9
While painting, I first meditated on what the door must have looked like before Christ. I thought about a story of a son who had betrayed his father and lost all trust. The son felt terrible, guilty, and ashamed. All he desired was to speak with his father, calm his father’s wrath with his plea for forgiveness, and feel his father’s loving, merciful arms wrap around him. But he could not; despite all desperate efforts there was no way of communicating with him directly. Everyday the son showed up at his doorstep leaving letters and gifts, in the hope that his father would accept them and extend forgiveness.
In the Old Testament, the door of personal communication and complete reconciliation with God was locked. The High Priest alone had the ability to stand in the presence of God within the holy tabernacle and offer ceremonial sacrifices for the sins of God’s people. Without an eternal intercessor, the Levitical priests habitually sought temporary forgiveness for the sinful nation of Israel. The Israelites clung to the hope of a Savior to come that would free them from their bondage to sin in exchange for permanent forgiveness. Fulfilling the Old Testament prophesies, God sent his one and only son, Jesus Christ, to bear the Good News of salvation and life for all who believed. Carrying the key of God’s Word, Christ became the open door for communication and provided the privilege of a personal relationship with God.
“You are like [a] prisoner in a dungeon, and there may be one key in the bunch which would unlock the door, and you might be free; but if you will not look for it, you may remain a prisoner still, though liberty is so near at hand.” C.H. Spurgeon
I had a choice to approach my Father’s door to ask for forgiveness. It was a choice to seek out the key of truth that led me through the door to be reconciled with God. There are many keys in this world that will never be able to unlock the door of salvation. In the Old Testament, there were no keys to enter into intimate communion with God. Today, there is one key that has unlocked the door, and it is found in the belief of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6
“My Lord never fails to honor His promises; and when we bring them to His throne, He never sends them back unanswered. Therefore I will wait only at His door, for He ever opens it with the hand of magnificent grace. At this hour I will try Him anew.” C.H. Spurgeon
My hope is found in the Truth that Jesus Christ is my invitation to walk through the door of salvation into a glorious, personal relationship with God. The door that once was locked has now been opened.
While it is my choice to knock on the door of the Lord, Christ is also persistently knocking on the door of my heart. The second aspect of the image of the door is that God seeks me.
“With lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3
“The master came One night to the door, and knocked with the iron hand of the law; the door shook and trembled upon its hinges; but the man piled every piece of furniture which he could find against the door, for he said,
‘I will not admit the man.’
The master turned away, but by-and-bye He came back and with His own soft hand, using most that part where the nail had penetrated, He knocked again –
Oh, so softly and tenderly.
This time the door did not shake, but strange to say, it opened, and there upon his knees the once unwilling host was found rejoicing to receive his guest.
‘Come in, come in; thou hast so knocked that my bowels are moved for thee. I could not think of thy pierced hand leaving its blood-mark on my door, and of thy going away houseless, thy head filled with dew, and thy locks with the drops of night.
I yield, I yield, Thy love has won my heart.’
So in every case: lovingkindness wins the day. What Moses with the tablets of stone could never do, Christ does with His pierced hand.” C.H. Spurgeon
I have discovered that God longs for me. More than anything, He wants my love and wants me to accept His unending love. When I chose to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior, I also opened the floodgates of Christ’s abounding love to pour into my life forever.
Psalm 103 gives a beautiful picture of the one true God who reigns in my heart:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word!
Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!
Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!”
My soul sings these praises to the Lord for I know how much I have been forgiven from and I know what Christ chose to suffer on my behalf. In giving my life to Christ, I have walked through the door into eternal salvation, received the gift of forgiveness, and embraced the nearness to God unattainable by any other way.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3
Once the door was complete, I looked and saw that something was missing. There was more to the journey of faith in Jesus Christ than walking through the door of salvation. Prior to receiving an inheritance as a child of God, I had to leave my old life of sin behind. Just as God commanded Moses to remove his sandals before approaching the holy ground on Mount Sinai, I too needed to shed my selfish nature before approaching a holy God. Removal of shoes is also a symbol of cleansing. Mary Magdalene took off Jesus’ sandals as an act of service and worship to cleanse her Savior’s feet with expensive perfume and her own hair as a rag. Taking off my shoes is a symbol of humbly acknowledging my wretchedness apart from God and my need for Him to create in me a new heart.
The tradition of the removal of shoes in order to receive gifts is seen in cultures all around the world. During Christmas time in Germany, Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Russia, children leave their shoes outside of their doors in hope that they will find gifts in them the following morning. The birth of Jesus Christ was the ultimate gift and because of his birth, life, death, and resurrection He offers the greatest gift of eternal life to those who seek after Him and His truth. The empty shoes set before the door illustrate this reoccurring theme of surrendering my possessions, my heart, and my life in hope for everlasting gifts from the Lord.
If the children around the world practiced this Christmas tradition, yet were unwilling to set their shoes outside the door they would be forfeiting their share of blessings and gifts. In the same way, refusing to surrender my life to Christ forfeits me from receiving the gift of eternal life. Jesus spoke in the presence of his disciples, the chief priests, the Pharisees, and great crowds of witnesses about a parable comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding banquet prepared by a king for his son (Matthew 22:1-14). While the majority of this parable points to the free offer of the gospel extended to all indiscriminately, the last section directly correlates the result of forfeiting the righteousness given by Christ.
“’But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are invited, but few are chosen.’” Matthew 22:11-14
This man was not a common wedding-crasher for all had been invited to the king’s banquet. In fact, all the guests had been rounded up hastily from “the street corners” and therefore could not have been expected to come with proper wedding attire. That means the king himself supplied the wedding garments to all that attended the banquet. This particular man’s lack of proper garments indicates he had intentionally rejected the king’s own gracious provision. The imagery seems to represent those who identify with the kingdom eternally, profess to be Christians, belong to the church in a visible sense – yet spurn the garment of righteousness Christ offers (Isaiah 61:10) by seeking to establish a righteousness of their own. When questioned, this man “was speechless.” Ashamed to admit one’s own spiritual poverty leads to a greater loss of spiritual wealth in Christ offered by the King.
It is not permissible to carry old sinful habits into new redeemed lives. Just as the guests shed their street clothes in order to dress in the king’s wedding attire, I too left my old life of self-righteousness in order to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. I left my old shoes outside the door to receive my new shoes from the King within the banquet hall.
Once adorned in the righteousness of Christ, I entered through the door of salvation into a new identity. The graffiti painting on the top left panel of Open Door spells the word “pais.” I was surprised to find that this word was translated four different ways in four different languages, yet they all encompass the theme of identity. In Spanish “pais” means “country”; in Portuguese it translates to “parents”; in ancient Greek it is the word for “child”; and in French it describes “peace.”
Finding my identity in the world looks like this:
Country: I am a citizen of the United States of America.
Parents: My parents are David and Lindsay Anderson.
Child: I once was a child and eventually I will have a child of my own.
Peace: I love myself and try to solve my own problems.
On the other hand, finding my identity in Christ looks as follows:
Country: Heaven is my home. (Ephesians 2:18-20, 1 Peter 1:16-18, 1 Peter 2:10-12)
Parents: God is my Father. (Psalm 103: 13)
Child: I am a child of God. (John 1:12)
Peace: My source of peace in all circumstances in found in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-8)
I chose to place my identity on that which is unseen, rather than what is seen. What is written on my heart will one day be revealed for all to see. In that time, it will be better for the guests sitting at the king’s banquet table than for those left in the temporary comforts of their own homes who rejected their personal invitation to the King’s wedding celebration.
Therefore, I approach the ancient wooden door and reflect on my Savior Jesus Christ who longs to have a personal relationship with all who believe in Him. I take off my shoes - throwing off all that hinders me and the sin that so easily entangles. I leave my old sinful life outside and step into a new life characterized by God’s righteousness, not my own. I have received the gift of forgiveness after walking through the doors of Christ and have entered into the banquet of God, cleansed and adorned. I chose to listen for Christ knocking ever so gently with His nail-pierced hands on the doors of my heart. Had I rejected Him, shut Him out, or ignored Him…I would have forfeited the love, forgiveness, salvation, joy, hope, comfort, wisdom, compassion, mercy, grace, righteousness, eternal inheritance, eternal life in heaven that came when I opened the door and fell to my knees. I rejoice in God’s sovereign, saving grace that gave me a way to have a personal relationship with Him. The door that was once locked has been opened to all who believe.
2011, Oil on Canvas, 120in x 72in
2011, Oil on Canvas, 19.2in x 19.2in
2011, Oil on Canvas, 34.8in x 19.2in
2011, Oil on Canvas, 19.2in x 19.2in