This Lenten season I will focus my writing on what I have experienced in the relationships between suffering, faith and creativity.
Suffering, Faith and Creativity
Part 1: Out of Ashes
I stood behind a veil of endless darkness that dropped down after my son died. I walked among the hopeless rubble and wondered what to do with the all the threads, instantly unwoven, in my life. Before, I dwelled in a garden, where life flourished and beauty grew. I saw it as good. But this grief, this sorrow—it was a wasteland to me. I was convinced that nothing good could grow amongst the thorns and weeds of its entanglement. I believed that life in the wake of this tragedy would forever be spent muddling through the ashes of a burned down garden. I believed that darkness was forever my air to breathe, and night forever my day to live.
It was then that I decided to write my way through the ashes, to try to find something to say, though nothing could be said. For didn’t God first speak in the darkness? Yes, His first utterance came in the void of black. And in the beginning, God created. He looked at the world without form or order, and He pressed into it to bring forth life. This is the very work of an artist. If I, indeed, am made in the image of this Divine Artist, then I, too, must create. Certainly art grows in the light of the garden, but it also must grow in the dark of the ashes.
Beginnings and ends weave together this life on earth. We all know what it is to stand among the ashes, and to wonder what will become of us. When I first stood behind the black veil of sudden grief, and the road ahead looked like one endless ocean of emptiness, I wondered this too. How could I possibly reach into this deep sea and pull up something of worth? What could I possibly say that would not slowly drown in the vast waters of wailing? What could I ever create that would not be squashed beneath the heavy hand of sorrow?
But in this exact place of unknowing, in this process of undoing, we are ripe for making art. The rawness, the tenderness, the fear relinquished, they all push us to get down on our knees and to come up with something new, to somehow bring forth life. Deep suffering is truly a death of self and dreams, but certainly not of identity. For our identity is most deeply rooted in the image of the Divine Creativity. And no fire can touch those roots. Yes, this goes against logic and understanding, but it falls in line with the heart of our Creator. For our Creator makes beauty out of ashes, time and time again.
But the great mystery and the blessed wonder of it all is that while we create, while we make art with the rubble of our lives, He is creating art inside of us. And though we stand among the ashes of a burning garden, though we drown in the wake of our wails, we are lifted by the painful process of becoming His broken works of art. We become the very beauty that He creates.