“I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44:22)
When I was a young child in elementary school, one of the things we would sometimes get to do in art class was color in photocopied illustrations, almost all of them having something to do with New England history. As an aside, I recall one very vividly of a sailor in the hold of an old wooden ship passed out next to a barrel, a wry smile on his face. Lyrics were written to the right of him, which read, What would you do with a drunken sailor? What would you do with a drunken sailor? What would you do with a drunken sailor early in the morning! And so on with many stanzas interspersed with the rousing, Yo! Ho! and up she rises!... We would later use this illustration to learn and sing the song in music class in the later afternoon. However, it wasn't all nautical work songs lamenting the inebriation of derelict seaman, as sometimes we'd get to color patriotic classics like Yankee Doodle or a New England Shaker hymn-like Simple Gifts--and this was a public school, but it was also the 80s.
The best part about coloring the illustrations was when the marker basket got passed around. The art teacher used to keep a plastic, white lattice basket full of markers on her cart. In hindsight, it was a living history artifact, a collection of markers from students' past and fully representative of public education budgets throughout the years. There were Sharpies and Crayolas (good years), and unambiguous markers all white with no branding and only a cap to indicate their color (bad years). You knew these should be passed over because you had never seen or used one that wasn't dry from the start. The markers were big and small, fat and thin, and as you made your selection, you had to dig through the odd eraser, random candy wrapper, and various chewed caps whose markers had long since met their end. There were random strips of paper from art projects that no one ever cleaned out, and the single-colored pencil which always had some weird color name like "Carmine", "Umber," or "Puce"--a reject among rejects who never once was used by any student and competed only with the broken crayon for loser of this dystopia. Bonus if you happened across one without chew marks.
But the real treasure--the thing you really wanted to find in the short time the basket came round was a Mr. Sketch scented marker. These markers were the Cadillac of elementary school art production. Depending on your art teacher on any given year, these were so precious they might not even be considered worthy of the lattice marker basket. Instead, they were sometimes preserved in their Styrofoam magazine, at which point sliding the blue cardboard cover to the left or right, their spectrum of scented colors became exposed, all lined up nicely like soldiers at attention. But (!), if you could find them in the marker basket, you felt like God had decided to shine rays of sunshine into your life, and angelic choirs were singing at your good fortune.
On this particular day, I recall coloring in a drawing with the brown "cinnamon" scented marker. As I attempted to keep within the lines, the sweet scent of cinnamon wafted in the air as the marker scratched at the cheap paper. It reminded me of trips to Vermont, where all the stores were scented with cinnamon and cider and pumpkin. But after a while, like an addict on a high, you become inoculated to the smell. When this happened, you usually had two choices. If you were lucky enough to have a second Mr. Sketch you could always use that one and reignite your olfactory amusement. But if such luxury was not yours, you could color over and over and over again the same spot on the paper, hoping the extra flow of ink would release more smell. What this usually meant was that the cheap public school paper would become saturated by the marker, and little wet fuzzies would begin to form, which soon after created long, thin eczema-like shedding which collected under your marker and often formed into little balls. Keep going at this pace, and you'd go right through the paper and hit the stain-impervious top of the Soviet-style public school desk, which, apparently, was designed with only utility in mind a no sense for the aesthetic. Mine was institutional green with a sawdust colored polymer top.
It may not seem like it, but children scratching their markers through cheap public school paper is a good illustration of what God does for us. We were made in the image of God, but that image was destroyed through sin. The "image" left was one of a rebel, a sinner, someone who doesn't obey God or really want to. It's an ugly picture. But God comes along, like a happy child, pops the cap off his divine Mr. Sketch, and starts coloring and covering over that sinner-image. He smiles and laughs like a child as He feverishly blots out what was there and draws over it something new. And the scent that rises to his nose is not the stench of sin but the sweet, refined aroma of righteousness. God is coloring over your sin and making you fragrant; he is making you righteous in his sight. The old is gone, forever covered over by this new work.
In Isaiah 44:22, the prophet gives us another metaphor. God blots out our transgressions like a cloud and our sins like a mist.
That is, he covers or colors over our bad image and makes us a new one, in the likeness of his Son. You are that new image. In Christ, your sins are washed away, colored over, and the sweet scent of righteousness remains. You please God! Augustine once said that Christians are like a perfume that, when shaken, enchants the whole room. And God delights to do this for you. So today, and every day, stand in the reality of your newness. God has redrawn you, recolored you, restored you. To Him be all our glory, honor, and praise.