Prayer, Creativity & Faith

Salt crystals, or leaving your mark


Watercolor is, as its name implies, a wet medium. You can’t apply the pigment without water, and a good watercolorist takes advantage of the inherent properties of the paints. Rob O’Dell, an amazingly talented artist who just happens to be my dad (you would know that if you’d ever seen our freckled calves side by side), painted this painting. One of his techniques involves sprinkling ordinary table salt onto the damp paint. The salt soaks up the water, and with it, some of the pigment. Once it’s fully dry, Dad gently brushes off the dried salt, leaving behind a delicate lacy white pattern — in this painting, it looks like the tops of weeds, or little wildflowers, or dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.

This technique doesn’t work if the paint is too wet. Or if it’s too dry. Over years, Dad’s learned just the right moment to apply it for maximum effect — so that the salt leaves the desired mark.

Day after day, we encounter situations and people that need God. When there’s trouble or pain or heartbreak or fear, we think we have all the answers, and we want to share them. We want to talk about how God changed our lives. About how they, too, can depend on Him for help. It’s the Great Commission from Matthew 28 — it’s our duty to spread the good news. I agree. It’s true. But I also know that timing is everything. Some people are too angry to hear it. Some people have been too hurt. Some people resent the fact that you think they are lacking or that they need what you have. Some people haven’t actually seen you living out your faith, only preaching it, and they won’t trust your words.

When a friend is in crisis, what they need the most is your presence. A listening ear, a comforting shoulder. Not a preacher.

In painting, if Dad tried to brush the salt away before it was dry, it wouldn’t leave the right mark, just an ugly smear. If he applies the salt too late, or too early, it doesn’t do what it’s meant to do.

But if you sprinkle carefully, and wait patiently, the salt leaves a permanent mark and the finished piece is changed. There will be no doubt that you were there. That God was there.

Because of the beauty left behind.

One Response to “Salt crystals, or leaving your mark”

  1. Elizabeth Lincourt says:

    This is a good one, on so many levels. I often stop and silently ask myself (something which has taken me decades to learn) if the person is ready to hear what I have to say about a spiritual topic. In the silence which follows, I hear an answer…”yes, go ahead” or “stop; not yet”. Not all paintings are ready for salt, nor are all people ready to know about God.
    Namaste. truly.

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