I’ve learned to recognize this feeling. February was a season of tiny margins, cold and gray days mixed with stubborn flu symptoms that sapped any scrap of leftover energy. The “You Need to Run Away” feeling showed up, sat down on my lap and refused to be ignored.
Thankfully Grace provided a free Friday. There were things that needed to be done. Invitations that were hard to turn down. But I knew if I didn’t run away for a few hours I was going to pay in ways that hurt.
When days feel more like a repetitive chore to be accomplished than art to be created, it helps to set down the schedule and run toward the art of others. This could have looked a thousand different ways, because with the right eyes, art can be found everywhere. On this day it looked like a trip to Kansas City and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I loaded my coffee cup, downloaded an audiobook for the drive and set off in search of inspiration and a change of scenery.
I love art museums but know embarrassingly little about art history, technique and design. I go there not for what I know but for how they make me feel which is part of the beauty of all kinds of art. I don’t necessarily have to understand every nuance to appreciate it. I go for the soothing hushed tones that invite me into the limestone and marble halls with a magical assurance that something beautiful is about to be discovered around the corner.
There will always be something, a painting or photograph or sculpture or bit of architecture, that triggers a response that’s impossible to explain. A sense of familiar awe. It’s an almost visceral reaction, a spark of divinity that might be described as God’s fingerprints.
“All earthly things are the shadows of heavenly realities–the expression, in created, visible forms, of the invisible glory of God.” Andrew Murray
Art is a reflection of the glory of God and we were all created to be artists. I needed this reminder. The treasures held in the Nelson-Atkins on this day pointed me back toward truth. Life is beautiful and is meant to painted in broad brushstrokes of reflected glory.
This painting was the one that did it for me. My gaze got caught in my breath as I experienced the glory of the gift. The Creator behind the art of the artist. Such simple extravagant beauty.
With the right eyes and heart, the same reaction happens when you witness the art of a word rightly spoken, an act of pure compassion, a service done with love. For me that run away feeling is the call to wake up to the art needing to be lived in the every day places. To see with renewed wonder the Creator behind all the glory that’s being created.
In her book A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman describes it like this:
“Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways–through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack. I call it art, someone else calls it rubbish. So what? Call it what you will. God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of the human experience–both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat. We must make our art, even in our weakness. If we don’t, we are denying ourselves ourselves. In turn, we deny everyone else ourselves as well.”
A few hours in an art museum banished the gray from my soul by allowing me time to practice forgotten verbs. Wander…Ponder…Meander. Story upon story invited me out of my own story for a few hours and gave fresh perspective in return.
When you forget how to live life as art, joy slips away and beauty is exchanged for an unending checklist. Listen to your soul. There are times when it begs you to run away to a place where you can use the art of others to reignite your own. Whether it is in a theater, a bookstore, a walk in the woods or a drive through the countryside with music pouring out the speakers, art is meant to be consumed and shared. It’s how we’re wired. Search out the art of others to inspire you to live your own. It just may help you bridge the gap from winter to spring. I know it worked for me.
“Every moment is packed with artistic possibility because, as an image bearer with a job to do, there is potential to reveal the glory of God in every circumstance, no matter how I feel, who I’m with, what my hands hold, or what’s gone wrong. God with us lives within us. And he will come out through us in a million little ways.” Emily P. Freeman.