In my 30s, I went abruptly from being an agnostic to a follower of Jesus Christ. This kind of profound change meant rethinking most aspects of my life. As a poet, I found that my words which once focused on existential questions such as “What is the meaning of life?” now focused on the struggle of living a life of faith. Poetry, with its imagery, compact language, and multiple meanings, helped me to try to say that which was inexpressible.
Although I’m still in love with words, I’ve found lately that I have the desire to express my thoughts and feelings in other ways. I’m drawn to color and the way different hues and tones connect with emotions. Although I’m not skilled in visual arts, I find experimenting with alcohol inks or creating collages help me express my spiritual side.
When I use any kind of art as a spiritual practice during retreats, I emphasize that is the process that matters, not the product. It can be difficult for participants to let go of the idea that their finished art must live up to certain standards, but letting go of this judgmental voice can be very freeing.
Any type of art can be a spiritual practice, a way that offers insights into who we are and who God is. When we are focused on the act of creating, we become more aware of our senses and can find release from critical thinking. We open ourselves up to God and provide an opportunity for God to speak to us.
Christine Valters Paintner, in her blog post on Patheos called “Art and Spiritual Practice,” states that “In art-making as prayer, we engage the creative process consciously as an experience of the holy and a form of communication with God.” Paintner is the online abbess for Abbey of the Arts, “a virtual monastery offering classes and resources on contemplative practice and creative expression.”
The desire to create is a universal one and what better way to use that desire than to create something which connects us to The Creator. Isn’t it amazing that God shares that creative spirit with us? In the musical Children of Eden, Eve speaks of the “Spark of Creation.”
I’ve got a feeling that the Father who made us
When he was kindling the pulse in my veins
He left a tiny spark of the fire, smoldering inside
The spark of creation, is flickering within me
The spark of creation, is blazing in my blood
A bit of the fire that lit up the stars
And breathed life into the mud, the first inspiration
The spark of creation