In the past 18 months I have experienced more change in my internal, spiritual life than I expected. I arrived at this transition in an interesting way – one for which an explanation would require more than a single blog post. In general, I can tell you that I truly let go of a few things; but not in the pithy Let go and let God sort of way.
Except, yes – exactly in that way.
Funny; a good part of my internal, spiritual growth seems to be connected to a certain newfound understanding, born of age and experience, that many things are simultaneously less complicated and more complex than once believed.
Faith, for example. It’s incredibly complex, viewed through the lens of Biblical theology, history, personal experience, understanding of salvation and man’s relationship with all religion. ‘Having faith’ or being a ‘person of faith’ defines us to ourselves and to others in ways that allow for easy compartmentalization. There are boxes for everyone, and we love to fill them up.
Yet faith is also a simple thing. Our questions will never be completely answered; nobody, and I mean nobody, holds the key to understanding everything. Faith is not extensive and exhaustive; it is a jumping-off place, a starting point. We are all people of faith to some degree. It just seems that the object of our faith is often up for grabs.
So ‘let go and let God’ is a small, ridiculous statement that is completely and utterly simplistic, and extremely irrelevant to serious people with serious faith. And ‘let go and let God’ is the deepest, most self-aware, kindest act a person can do – for themselves and for others.
It’s that sort of thing that has been working in and through my soul in these past months; living in the mess, the paradox, the in-between. The simple stuff has become increasingly meaningful. The contradiction brings comfort, the tension is profound. To quote Gungor, Somehow the common becomes the divine.
So, I started coloring.
First, it was the adult coloring books that are so popular these days. I bought a couple and dug in. Rebelliously, I colored with Sharpies, because I had some and I wanted to. The markers bled through and ruined adjacent pages. They smeared. But, hey – one of the perks of coloring as a grown-up is that you can do whatever the heck you want.
And that, right there, was one of the first things that impacted my soul:
Some rules don’t have to be followed.
Especially when it comes to creative pursuits. Consider who made the rules, and why they’re there, and when you might get to decide to push past them. Obviously, this attitude can be used to rationalize all sorts of bad behavior; but at a certain point, you realize that a careful examination of why you follow certain rules can lead to astonishing freedoms.
Who said we couldn’t use Sharpies to color? Probably a lot of art teachers, and parents, and people who don’t want you to waste Sharpie ink.
But I started coloring, and I used my Sharpies, and freedom abounded.
Step two: I got a new book for Christmas, which is not unusual; but it was unfamiliar to me. I opened it with interest and a bit of skepticism, as it was a book about Prayer, and the cynic in me has read just enough about “being a better pray-er” and “improving your prayer life “and “praying to please God” and “praying without ceasing” and I just didn’t really want another group of essays about prayer that would likely make me feel, again, like I wasn’t quite cutting it.
(I mentioned the cynic in me; she is well-fueled and often, not very nice. My apologies for any offense.)
But I was oh-so-wrong, because this was a book about improving your prayer life but unlike anything I’d seen – or considered – before. As I mentioned, I like to color, and you may not know this, but I am a constant doodler – my notes in meetings often take the shape of houses and flowers and people and all sorts of creative meanderings – and this book joined those two things together and said, Hey guess what? You can call that prayer! and I said No way! and the book said Yes, way! and here we are, a week into adopting the practice of Praying In Color and everything has changed.
I struggle with prayer. Oh, I do it all the time; I know it’s good for me, it strengthens my faith, it matters. But I always feel like I’m falling short, not really doing enough. I think a lot of it has to do with sheer time; I never seem to have ENOUGH TIME to pray like I feel I should or want to. Prayer is closely aligned with meditation, being still, simply being in the presence of God, and my go-go-go lifestyle makes that an incredible struggle for me.
It’s hard to be still.
But here’s something that good teachers have known for decades; that if a student is struggling with focus, giving them something to distract their desire to be distracted helps things calm down and clarify. That clarity has come in droves for me, as I find myself easily – happily – sitting each morning with my little sketch book, doodling and coloring and drenching it all with an internal sense of meditative wellness, good thoughts, kindness, submission, supplication and petition that might otherwise be known as prayer.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at our Riverside Campus are offended and outraged. How could it be that their Campus Pastor carries a weakness for prayer? Shouldn’t pastors be naturally good at that sort of thing? Why in the world would a church leader need to start coloring to be effective at praying? Shouldn’t you have figured this out by now?
The wisdom and discernment that comes with experience comes into play here, and I confess that I have no good, solid answer, except to say this: I am convinced that God is more pleased with my honesty about where and how I struggle that He would ever be with my pathetic attempts to be All That.
(Been there, done that; it did not end well.)
I’m just a girl who likes to color and doodle, and is happily convinced that the Divine Presence, Creator of the World, Author of Salvation is willing to put my pictures on the metaphorical refrigerator of heaven.
Seriously, I can’t recommend this book highly enough for anyone who wants a jump start to their meditative / prayer / internal life. So grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for thinking of me! Find Praying In Color here.