Breath for the Bones Book Club: Thoughts on Chapter 2
As an idealist, I tend to think of things as they could be, as they would be minus the Fall of man that ushered sin and brokenness in to the world.
Idealism fosters creativity in me and stirs me to dream. I can look at things that are rather haphazard and chaotic and see a way to make it lovely with a new arrangement or a different perspective or a sweep of decluttering or a coat of paint (oh, how I love to paint!).
Some chaos, however, cannot easily be coaxed into beauty or tamed into order. That’s when my insecurities rear up, and my creativity is usurped by a desire to control and make everything safe. Formulas and checklists work nicely in such situations. And the Law offers its own kind of rugged comfort zone when our spirits are feeling the effects of the wild.
Art calls us out of this safety net, into the creative realm of the wildness of God. Chapter 2 of Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones is called “Entering into Beauty.” Here Shaw tells us that creativity flows out of these disordered states as we work with, not against, them:
Art is in the impulse that gathers materials from our disparate but rich and compellingly diverse environment and assembles them in a way that brings a kind of order out of their chaos, an order with elements of both conflict and resolution. (Shaw 19)
I see the coexistence of conflict and resolution, as well as discord and harmony, in the work of many artists. Shaw speaks of a prairie woman who designs a quilt, who “created beauty and richness from the ordinary stuff, even the cast-offs, the old colored rags of her life.” (29)
My sister-in-law, Melissa Danner, does this with her textile creations, coordinating seemingly discordant fabric textures and patterns—both vintage and new—creating all sorts of heart-capturing pieces, which she then embellishes with antique buttons from France or quirky pompom edging from a flea market. The result is fabulous!
A luncheon speaker explained this artistic approach of conflict and resolution using a lovely oil painting rich with layered color. She pointed out the use of both light and dark colors and how both were needed to create the depth and character of the painting. As art mirrors life, here we see how God as Artist must use the darkened colors of life’s pain and sorrow to heighten the light colors of joy and peace. A life devoid of one shade makes the other less-than—although most of us would rather have more of the lighter shades, if given the choice. (I wrote “The Canvas Heart” poem soon after hearing this message.)
Alone at my keyboard, I sample words and phrases and ideas, some light and some dark, striving to produce a work of depth, rich with layers of color, layers of character. I am like the quilt of that prairie woman: My life has a beauty and richness of ordinary stuff, with quite a large pile of cast-offs and quite a melding of chaos and serenity. These seemingly discordant and commonplace elements produce art in the hands of the Master Artist. In all this, in my writing and through my very life, I hope others are encouraged to draw near to God and enter into the source of all beauty, Christ Himself.
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