They’ll rebuild the old ruins, raise a new city out of the wreckage.
Isaiah 61:4 (The Message)
Congratulations! By now you have made it to week 5 of the “Stay at Home” order. Most likely, some of your “High Alert” hormones have worn off and weariness is beginning to settle in. All of the creativity we collectively managed to draw from is wearing thin. That’s natural. It’s okay.
Some of us are weary. Others are still full steam ahead. Most of us though, are experiencing a roller coaster that takes us through both extremes. That’s just what happens with emotions. God programmed us to have emotions. Our challenge is to listen to our emotions, be informed by them and yet not always act on them. For instance, when we are weary, it’s okay to rest. Just don’t stay there. When we are angry, its okay to ask ourselves what is going on so we can address it. Just don’t act out that anger by hurting others.
I think that’s why I was so drawn to the text of Isaiah 61:1-4. Jesus quotes these verses at the beginning of His ministry in Luke 4:18-19. In these verses we learn that through God, even rubble can be transformed into something beautiful.
I don’t believe it a coincidence that I just happened to attend an art therapy workshop in January this year. It was sponsored by PESI, Inc., a company that provides professional continuing education workshops. The presenter was Pamela Malkoff Hayes, MFT, ATR-BC, a Board Certified Art Therapist. Her website is www.hayesarttherapy.com. She had us practice in the workshop some of her ideas. Here is one that really brings a visual aspect to the notion of transformation.
Begin by drawing out one uncomfortable emotion you are experiencing right now. Use colors and shapes to express what words cannot. Once you have a picture try to crumple up the paper and then open it up again. Do that three times. Notice how by the third time the texture of the paper has changed. Some of the rough edges lose their sharpness. This is how our emotions are as well. When we take the time to acknowledge them, they lose their power over us.
Next, rip that paper up.
Divide that paper into thirds.
One third of the scraps are going to go into the trash. Okay, here I am going to add my own interpretation to the activity. By throwing one third away, this represents what you are giving over to God. Let go. Let God take care of the outcome.
Now, set aside one third. Since we are not able to be together for this, you will need to use your imagination here. In the workshop we exchanged one third of our scraps with someone else. I gave away one third of my uncomfortable emotion and I accepted one third of someone else’s. This part of the activity is to remind us that we are not alone. We can share our burdens and uncomfortable emotions with others. It is a sign of strength to ask for help in carrying your burdens. We share the load. Since we are not able to be with each other, go get a new piece of paper and tear it up as if you were accepting one third of someone else’s burden. If you happen to have some construction paper handy, it may be helpful to use a new color of construction paper for this part.
At this point, you will have one third of your original drawing and some scraps that represent a third of someone else’s burden. Combine these scraps. Ask yourself what the opposite of your uncomfortable emotion would be. For example, instead of sadness you might consider joy. Or instead of anger there might be peace or contentment. Or instead of fear you might think of safety. Now make a collage using your scraps that represents this new emotion. An important note here is that your collage does not have to be flat. It can be three-dimensional. I saw folks making boats and palm trees. It’s okay to use scissors and glue here if you need to. Allow your creativity to flow once again!
This activity highlights two important things for me. One is that we are not alone. We can share one another’s burdens. There are times in our lives when we receive more than we give. At other times, we are more prepared to give. Wherever you are in this moment is okay.
The second piece is God’s transformative powers. He can take rubble and create something new and beautiful. We simply have to let go of some of the control we’d like to have and give Him the freedom to be at work in our lives.
My thanks and appreciation to Pamela Malkoff Hayes and to God for sending me to the workshop at just the right time!
May God’s peace abide in you today!