It was a tough weekend.

After a few weeks of not feeling quite right and finally convincing myself to call the doctor, the results of an initial test were not quite conclusive. So, they scheduled additional tests on Monday. In the meantime, an ongoing infection landed me in the ER Friday night, and now I am on my fourth antibiotic in six weeks. The two issues may be connected; that would be the best case scenario.

I spent the weekend trying not to think of the worst case scenario.

I had hoped to spend the weekend shopping at the Farmer’s Market and writing poetry. I had wanted to read and bake and garden; instead I rested and started a new medicine and tried not to worry.

Instead of immersing myself in beauty, I felt like I was confronting the ugly realities of life.

But was that true? Are only easy things beautiful? Is there nothing exquisite in pain?

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In her book Breath for the Bones – Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith, Luci Shaw says there is no event, no relationship, no emotion that can’t be expressed through art.

Art is also the result of our human impulse to find expression for that something within us that responds to the stimuli surrounding us, crying out to be expressed, to find meaning in beauty, or terror, or sex, or something as mundane as food, and to reflect this in a form, a medium that produces a response – awe, excitement, disgust, wonder, even shock or anger – in those around us.

Artists respond to the light and dark around them by discovering what is true in the moment and allowing it to inspire and move them toward creating. In this way, they are like God, made just a little lower than the angels.

But art is not a cosmic redundancy, simply mimicking what science or philosophy or theology has already revealed of the world. Art – writing and dancing and painting and strumming: art in all its forms – fills in the gaps, speaks a language of its very own.

Art says something in a way that nothing else can, and the something that art says is so qualitatively different that it demands a radically different expression. Where linear, logical thinking may produce prose with a specific function – information or historical record or critical analysis or instruction – art selects and reflects on a small slice of human experience and lays it out there, a gift to anyone who is willing to savor it and enter into the artist’s experience even in a minimal way. The artist, ideally, communicates experience in images and forms so precisely tailored, so personal, so multileveled that its insights go far beyond bare facts or mere usefulness.

 Art is the language of the soul.

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Sunday morning, I got up in a fog just minutes before church was to start. It had been a bad night, and I thought about staying home. Then I remembered the state my soul was in and knew I needed to go.

There was no mistaking that morning, on the weekend I needed beauty to rise from the ashes, that the sermon text would be from the Psalms not Philippians. I would gladly have listened to my Pastor preach,  

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

I would have listened and understood with my head.

But when, instead, I heard the poetry of David, my heart heard and my soul was comforted.

“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs. Psalm 12:6

I will arise. I will set him in safety. For which he longs.

Amen.

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I am writing in community today with other members of theHighCalling.org, considering together over the next few weeks Breath for the Bones – Art, Imagination, and Spirit: Reflections on Creativity and Faith, by Luci Shaw. Visit theHighCalling.org today to see what others are saying about chapters 1 and 2 of the book. Then, pick up a copy for yourself and read/write along with us. Next week we will cover chapters 3 and 4.


Photo by Glenn R Carter , via Flickr, used with permission under the Creative Commons License.