It’s amazing what coming away can do. I recently came home from holiday and realised the importance of emptying myself of the clutter and the stuff. Coming away allows the space we need to see from a higher vantage point. We see who we truly are and Whose we truly are. Bigger than that though, we learn what it is our lives are all about. We learn that our lives are made of more and for more. More than we see. More than we know.
A couple weeks ago I went to a Yayoi Kusama exhibition. I knew of her work but didn’t know much. From the age of 10, Kusama worked with dots and nets to explore and deal with her unstable mental state. Art was her expression; art was her way of coping. In 2014 she was named the world’s most popular artist and she is renowned the world over for her ‘dots’. She kept producing work in her studio even though she checked herself into a mental institution. Seriously, what a woman!
Walking through rooms of her work I felt as if I was reading her journals. It was as if the rooms of paintings and sculpture and sketch represented her struggle – the wrestle in her mind… the frailties in her heart. She made sense of her life through colour and shape and pattern. Now, millions are enjoying and appreciating her work.
After we left the museum I couldn’t help but think of King David. He was a man deeply disturbed but deeply aware of his disturbances. He was a shepherd, a giant-slayer, a king, a father, a murderer, an adulterer, a friend, a leader, and a musician. He had status, fame and talent but he was still just a man.
Just like Kusama, King David coped with creative expression. He was very aware of his humanity and explored this. Isn’t it amazing that thousands of years later we’re reading his psalms, his songs, his petitions, his confessions, his pleas for forgiveness, these pained verses, these tributes of thanksgiving, these hymns of celebration? I thank God for words I can’t always articulate myself.
King David kept the conversation with God going. Even when it felt one-sided, even when he didn’t understand. He wasn’t always emotionally stable or in the right head space but he was always real about the condition of his heart. He was always raw with God about his soul.
I think that’s where the power of his creative work lies – in an honest approach to his story and God’s part in it. It’s no wonder he is known as a man after God’s own heart. I think David’s psalms dive into the curiosities and fears and questions we all have. Then the discovery and exploration of God and self is left up to us.
One of my favourite pieces at the exhibition was ‘Revelation from Heaven’. I don’t know why it was my favourite. It wasn’t colourful or overly exciting but it was simple and I liked the name. I don’t know what compelled Kusama to name that particular piece but it seems like an inquisitive artist yearning for something substantial… something real. For me, it’s a person looking for more. It’s colour and shape and pattern.
Maybe we best experience God when we’re open to the revelation of who He is. Maybe we best discover the mysteries of His love when we’re open to the unknown. Maybe, just maybe, when we’re deeply disturbed by the trivial, meaningless things in our lives and we stop for long enough, we find the colours were there all along. The patterns were coming together all along. The shapes were forming and we didn’t even know it.
I think the ‘more’ comes when we notice God’s colours in our imperfect, disturbing humanity. We don’t just get a better outlook on life but a rounder more wholesome lens by which we can view ourselves and the world around us. We need to dream bigger, put legs on those dreams and watch as God leaves us in wide-eyed wonder as He moves and shakes heaven and earth to make them happen. When we’re open like that – heart and soul, mind and spirit, to the honest and genuine journey; the wrestle; the middle-ground; the pain-turned-beauty, I truly believe that God gives us colourful, intricate, detailed, unique revelations of Heaven. And our lives end up being galleries of His grace and love and beauty for others to see and enjoy and take in.
Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
– Psalm 51:16-17