Lessons in pattern building

These ornate borders I am drawing are teaching me important lessons.

I am preparing for a day and a half of meetings in Honolulu and have been told the client would love to see Hawaiian accents in the art. And so, in my usual over-reaching approach to artistic challenges, I have given myself fairly intricate borders to quickly create. I can do this, right?

As I work in an empty meeting room, the Spirit starts to point out truths to me along the way – truths that speak to the process of building patterns in life.

Establishing a pattern of discipline in one’s life takes hard work. Paul tells Timothy to “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15) Practices of godly behavior can, over time, radically change us.

Here are a few lessons I’m learning about how creating visual patterns applies to spiritual discipline.

Don’t get stuck in preparation.

It’s good to prepare. For the sake of uniformity, I did measure and rule some pencil guidelines. But it’s easy to invest so much time getting ready, that I don’t have time to actually do anything that shows. I’ve been in plenty of small group meetings like this -- talking about studying or discussing praying but leaving little time for the doing. I spent many quiet times the same way. Get to the inking!

Perfection is not your friend.

As I draw repeated arrowhead-shapes, it is irking me that they’re not uniform. They look so inconsistent! But I know from experience that once they’re viewed as a whole, those little variations will disappear. That holds true for whatever practice you’re adding to your life. You may only sporadically have a prayer time that matches your ideal in your head. The important thing is that you’re praying.

It gets easier as you go.

The first row of diamonds I draw at a snail’s pace. But as I go, I’m getting into a rhythm. An economy of line develops. And as it becomes easier, it becomes more fun. Discipline is like that. The hard work up front pays off as you go.

You are in the Lord’s shadow.

The artist God filled with his Spirit to make the tabernacle and its accompanying implements was a man named Bezalel. His name literally means, “In the Lord’s shadow.” As I draw, my own shadow, falling over the art, reminds me that God closely identifies with our work – whether it’s creating visual patterns or building in practices of godliness.

Remember what you are making.

When we are grappling with the details, it’s easy to forget the beautiful thing we’re fashioning. Once I finish the inking and add the color, I’m surprised at how precise and beautiful these borders are. I can laugh now at my earlier complaints of imperfections. Likewise, when we are building a pattern of behavior, we need to get a big picture view. We need to be reminded of what we’re becoming.

The good news is that we don’t have to create a pattern from scratch.

In 2 Timothy 1:13, Paul instructs Timothy, “What you heard from me, hold fast as the pattern of sound teaching.” The word he uses for pattern is interesting. It pictures a sketch, or a drawn plan, like an architect might use. Timothy’s job was to ink in the lines that Paul had drawn for him.

We are given patterns to trace over in Scripture. Through the teaching of the apostles. And most of all, through the living example of Jesus.

Isn’t it wonderful that through this sometimes painstaking work, we’re putting on his beauty?

Jesus, you are the pattern we want our lives to follow. Help us in our daily disciplines to have a clear picture of who you are. How we want to be like you!

What regular pattern of behavior are you building in your life? I’d love to hear about it. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it.

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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