I listened to my gut this morning. A phrase my mentor used the other day and has stuck with me since. After my devotional this morning I sat there and was struck with this strange feeling of not knowing myself. It was not the first time for sure. I realized I was disconnected from myself.
So, I collaged, an activity which I often engage when I need affirmation or to express insights, hopes, dreams, or process experiences. I revisited an old collage I’d composed during a workshop I led on this very subject of connection with self. When I’d completed this one back in mid March I’d never taken the time to revisit it and reflect on what it had meant or what it might have been saying to me—what I might have been trying to say to myself.
It was a small collection of my favorite photographs—the tall slender siq opening to the Treasury at Petra, a Swiss autumn road at dusk with pools of water aglow by the setting sun, a grey heron perched at the tip of a thin winding river through Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania, and a cluster of salmon-pink Atlanta hydrangeas. In addition to these were an illustration of a tiny bird’s nest with a handful of eggs I’d torn out of a napkin and a little cut out of the class’s logo “The Bible and the Arts”. It was an accurate representation of me, one of many to be sure, stacked with layers and layers of endless meanings.
Today I was struck by the river. I found myself running my finger over it again and again. Its meaning deepened as I considered it in partnership with the two prayers I’d been captivated by this morning.
You are the well-spring of life.
Pour into our hearts the living water of your grace
That we might be refreshed to live this day in joy
Confident of your presence
And empowered by your peace
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
You call us to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
By paths as yet untrodden,
Through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with courage;
Not knowing where we go,
But only that your hand is leading us
And your love supporting us
In Jesus Christ our Lord
It just affirmed how powerful and helpful images are in connecting words to our lives—to our core. I saw myself as this heron looking out at the winding river, which, I had cut so that river’s end connected with one of the pools on the dark path of the photo next to it. The images were a reflection of a journey whose end is still uncertain, but because of the prayers, also depicted a life-giving stream, full of grace and that offered refreshment and joy not merely fearful unknowns. A stream which connected to a path which recalled one of my favorite poetic verses from the psalmist, “The Lord is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It reminds me: just take it one step at a time. God provides enough light for each step and that’s all I need.
This morning the siq represented primarily two thoughts. One, it is a loooong and narrow, winding gorge. If anxious to get out it seems unending and everything looks the same. If you slow down you realize how gorgeous it is with all its brilliant streaks of colors made from minerals, rain and time. At last you come to the end which opens to a shocking surprise, a spectacular and extraordinary edifice carved out of the rock beyond. Two, what is behind that edifice, however dazzling it may be, is yet another something completely unknown, as well. I, of course, when I consider that edifice immediately think of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, having grown up watching that loads of times as a little girl. Indiana knows what lies within the treasury is the Holy Grail—the cup of everlasting life, but what he doesn’t know is how to get there. When he enters it he discovers he must successfully make it through three life-threatening obstacles…paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.
The other three images in the collage were kind of simple by comparison, but also important. The eggs symbolized new un-hatched life. While, “The Bible and the Arts” icon reflects something I am associating with and growing to understand and live into. I recognize faith and the arts as the sense of direction I currently have in which I want to pursue ministry, but don’t have a complete grasp of it yet. And the hydrangeas? Joy, beauty, happiness, Atlanta, all things lovely J
So, I brought together the photos and the prayers and composed a piece which expressed me, my path, yearnings for my daily life, and uncertainty about my vocation and future… The magnificent power of collaging, or any art endeavor for that matter, is that it unfolds as much or more meaning in the process as the “final” product. I put quotes around “final” because, like all art, the meaning ever-evolves as we and time do.
This activity was emotionally tiring because it had brought forth a lot, but also illuminating. I realized part of my tiredness was because it was time for lunch! Feeling a creative surge now I crafted a lovely, colorful and flavorful salad and sat down with some long-awaited reading by my former professor, Bill Harkins, on transition and resilience. Long-awaited, but right on time, it seemed. As I crunched through my leafy greens I read his account of hiking through burnt forests in Montana. Kind of ironic. He illustrated parallels between the death and destruction amidst the fire-scorched lands and resiliency and new life. The forest needs the fire, he reminded. Wow. How his naming of my experience empowered me with the ability to hope and grasp for this resiliency and newness in my own life.
After these activities I felt my depth’s longing satisfied. I felt connected. I did not realize how “successful”, if I might call it that, I’d been in re-connecting with myself until after lunch when I hopped on facebook. I know, groan, laugh, whatever you like. What was the top of my newsfeed? Something from a sorority sister who only pops up now and then. What was her post about? An announcement her family home had been burnt in a forest fire last night. Are you serious?! I could not help my first thought from being, “Oh yeah, thiiiis is what it’s like to be connected.” Another fancy word for this is connectivity is synchronicity. It happens a whole lot more as we grow closer to and more connected with ourselves.
This news from my college friend was tragic and horrible and I found myself moved with tears and filled with gut-wrenching compassion. It was a depth of reaction I was filled with—able to have, because of what I’d just read. I was able to be so much closer to her in the agony and sorrow I can only begin to imagine she felt. I was able to pray and feel for her in a more intimate, personal and authentic way.
Gosh, how much more I become connected to the world when I am connected with myself!
Well, I can’t think of many more blaringly obvious forms of affirmation than those series of experiences. Affirmation to pursue constant connection and reconnection with myself. It is priceless and affects our whole life and all our relationships with everyone and everything else.
How could I not justify taking time for connectional activities? Taking time just for me?! I would be declaring all other “things” more important than myself, God’s Beloved.
Here’s to the connected life!