If you were to diagram my life, it would look very much like a drawing of Escher. Sometimes I feel like I'm the hand that's drawing a hand that's drawing itself. Other times I feel like I'm locked in one of those inescapable paradox cages. But most of all, I feel like I'm on the ever-ascending stairway that never goes anywhere.

Life's canvas was not designed to be painted by human hands. Constrained by the limitations of space and time, crippled by the human inability to see the entire painting at once, and gifted with an uncanny lack of judgement, I smear and smudge what I cannot go back and fix. At the same time, I worked hard to render my own image impeccably clear without the faintest idea of who I really was or the realization that I was constantly in flux, changing as often as a lonely flower bends before the force of the wind. Once I began to find outward stasis, my inward person grieved that I was not in the end what I wanted to be at the beginning. My attempts were futile.

I then looked to the Maker of the canvas and the Master Painter to draw something more perfect, more beautiful upon my heart and frame. But do I put down the brush and lay aside our pencils? No. I stupidly scribble all over the masterpiece of my Creator. Even if He asks me to stop (I only hear him if I haven't destroyed the ears He painted in) I stubbornly confound His every stroke. Worse, I think I made an improvement.

My life is also like Escher's paradox cage. This cage is of my own drawing. I thought I was building a palace for myself, but it restricted my movement. My own creation bound me, kept me from following the loving words of the Master Painter. He erased it for me once, but I was dumb enough to paint it back into existence. The funny thing, of course, is that it's just like the paradox cage. It doesn't really keep me inside. I just think it does. From my perspective, I have the illusion that it's an impregnable fortress when it's only a fake facade that need hold no one in, rendered so by the Master's nail-pierced hands. In the end, I choose to stay inside, though if I listened close, I'd hear the words of the Painter, guiding me through the illusion and onward in my life.

Inside the cage is a rather grand stairway. It is another thing I have drawn. It's rather marvelous; I can stay inside the cage yet think I'm climbing and getting somewhere. The truth is that it too is an illusion; a stairway that always goes up but never goes anywhere. I can walk it easily, jog, flat-out-run, or just sit down, but no matter what I do and no matter how many self-made steps I take, I never get anywhere. I certainly don't get out of the cage, though I have been told how.

Both Christians and non-Christians live on this canvas of life. For the unsaved person, life truly is miserable. No matter how many things you draw around yourself, you will not find success or happiness; at best, these things are temporary and imperfect. Happiness only lies in your misdirecting yourself with enough things so you don't have to think about t he reality of your existence. Listen to the Master Painter; He wants to make a masterpiece of you. But the Christian also can exist in these circumstances of his own making. How often do we stubbornly try to design our image in the eyes of others or attempt to build our lives how we think they ought to be built? How often do we cage ourselves up with those things we have amassed about us, whether hoped-for wealth or ambition or love or, dare I say it? Plain, old-fashioned sin? How often do we pride ourselves in our progress when we're just going around in circles on a stairway leading nowhere, designed only by our own cunning to keep us comfortable with our own laggardliness in our personal lives?

Only too often.