Sunday, August 7, 2016
God's Consolation in Art
I came to learn the value of art later in life, when I was almost 50. Nurturing creativity in my two young daughters was always a priority. We had in our home, blank sheets of white paper, crayons, markers, paint and scissors available for their use by the time they were a year old.
I'd read long ago in the Christian Science Monitor that if a parent wanted to have a creative child, do not purchase coloring books, but give them sheets of blank paper. I followed this guideline and ended up raising an art teacher and a marketing specialist who writes a blog and arranges pieces of jewelry for enticing Instagram messages at an independent business.
My own creativity was squelched growing up because my mother saw crayons and coloring as a waste of time. Our only box of crayons spent most of the time on the top shelf of the coat closet. Art in elementary school was hit-or-miss as the classroom teacher, back in the fifties, taught all subjects as well as the "specials" art, music and gym. When we did have art, perhaps a few times a year, every project looked the same as we followed the teacher's directives.
No room was allowed for individual expression nor were variations encouraged. Being locked into copying the teacher's example for color and design seemed robotic, against a child's natural inclination to experiment with color, form or design.
When I was approaching 50, I discovered my non-dominant left hand could draw. Drawing connected me to God and became prayer. Art projects touched and opened my soul in ways that deepened my connection to God, and awakened my creativity.
In the July/August, 2013, issue of Alive Now, a publication of The Upper Room, I had a short reflection published:
What comes from God
Brings me to God.
God prays by creating,
I create to pray.
These words describe my process of co-creating with God, making art that deepens my faith and nurtures my art.
God's Presence Through Art
Through the years since art awakened, God has walked beside me through various trials and challenges with peace coming through the completion of art projects.
For example, my parents died four days apart in January, 2013. My relationship with my mother and father was difficult, making the way I grieved them a challenge. I searched the internet for articles and talked with a few professionals about how to grieve people who were not responsible parents.
One day, my art teacher, who was aware of my emotional turmoil, suggested we make paper from the stack of sympathy cards I received. I tore over 100 cards into small pieces, and we made eight sheets of paper. I took the tiny, torn pieces of cards we did not use, dried them, and stitched them together. I thought the sheets of paper would be the path to restoration, but it turned out completing this piece designed by God's leading became the source of healing I sought. When the project was done, I finally reached a place of peace related to my parents' passing.
A Source of Comfort
Art continues to be a source of comfort and healing. For example, a week ago Tuesday, I had a day that challenged me with memories surfacing from the past, creating great anxiety, confusion and anger.
Every Tuesday I am a volunteer chaplain at a local hospital. Fortunately I was able to greet and help the people who came my way with care and interest while inside I was experiencing emotional turmoil. That night, I couldn't fall asleep. I asked God for an image to represent my struggle, knowing from past experiences an image is a communication from God. Copying the image and seeing what the image brings, becomes a way to pray, and stay present.
I thought about the layers of my self, what people saw and how I responded compared to the layers behind me that were stacked with memories filled with anger, frustration and anxiety.
I got out of bed, went to my desk, placed a piece of white paper on the board I use to cut paper, removed my X-acto knife from the glass apple cup and cut a series of long rectangles. Cutting the paper released the inner tension and turmoil that had resided in me all day. Then I went back to bed and slept.
The rectangles sat on my desk for a day before I wove them together, then sewing the woven pieces on a square of fabric. While I was completing the project God brought me the word -assurance- that anchored my work. The woven piece was an assurance of God's presence with me.
Later, I found four references in the Bible for the word "assurance." I copied these scriptures and have reflected on them in the following days. The image and word "assurance" remind me I am in God's presence always, no matter what is happening.
Art, lately discovered, but richly pursued, is a source of companionship as I have worked through hard times. God is always present when people are not, offering understanding, strength and comfort.
Art, God and You
Your path with God and art may be different from mine. You may or may not have images to use, but opening your heart to God can bring ways to receive that will relate to your interests. God knows how to reach you with insights, perspectives for days of celebration and challenge.
How to start -
1. Open your heart to God, asking God to enter.
2. I believe art can be a way to work through difficult times or celebrate life. You don't have to create a masterpiece; merely experimenting with color and paper can get you started. For example, get a sheet of white paper and a basic set of watercolor paints. Think about how you feel then find a color that matches your feelings. Paint lines using these colors. Be alert for stirrings that may happen in your heart. Listen to what God might be saying to you. Allow time to rest with your art.
3. Return to the art in a few days. Listen to the art. What does it say? What does God say to you through what you created?
4. Bring a specific event or moment in your life as you interact with the paint and paper. Where does God enter? What image comes? How does God speak to you through the image?
5. Keep your interaction with the paints and paper simple. Allow time to explore fully what you put on paper and how God comes. I have spent several weeks on a simple piece of artwork, sitting with the art and listening to God. There is no hurry. Sometimes it takes awhile to hear a message God wants to convey.
Prayer: God, art museums all over the world are filled with artist's interpretations of your message. You can speak to us too as we gather paper and paints. We can respond to scripture and paint our perspective. We can related to an image that has come to us in a new way. Art can offer an avenue of healing and growth, and moving deeper into you and our created selves. Open our hearts and guide our hands. Amen.