Our God is wondrously creative, as the entire universe attests. It’s not surprising that as God’s image-bearers, human beings share in that bent toward creativity. That’s an important aspect of human nature to remember as we seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ. Because the arts – whether it be music, literature, visual art, or other avenues, are particularly meaningful arenas for spiritual discovery and growth. Engaging in the arts – whether in creating or receiving, places us in a uniquely open space; and the Holy Spirit loves open spaces.
My sister, Kerry Peeples, is an amazing artist. Kerry works in lots of different media but encaustic, an old form of painting using hot wax, is one of her favorites. Here is a portion of how she described the painting Reflections:
The painting Reflections celebrates the awesome process of changing into who we are and whose we are; Gods children, made in his image. God finds such delight in this process, especially when we reflect and acknowledge his grace within the journey…
Encaustic is an old form of painting in which the artist uses hot wax mixed with varnish and pigment. The artist must work layer upon layer; painting, then applying heat to make sure each layer marries the previous layer. One of the beauties of encaustic is the transparency of the wax enables the viewer to see a history of marks and strokes. The finished image is often visibly dependent on what went before. Isn’t life like that?
“With unveiled face…from one degree of glory to the next…”
This past spring, Kerry taught at World Methodist Evangelism’s Order of the Flame clergy conference, focusing on the intersection between evangelism, spiritual formation, and the arts. During the conference, she created another encaustic painting.
Like our own lives, the painting included brokenness, sin, and pain. Yet, as the Holy Spirit moved through our days together, new images emerged. Through layers of color and the intensity of heat, the previous images were reformed and renewed, and recreated into something beautiful.
Part of the experience of following Jesus is the recognition that the veil is slowly being lifted and we are becoming more and more the way we were made. We are like encaustic paintings, with each layer of our lives and spiritual journeys married to the next, with the finished image dependent on what went before. I like to think it’s a little bit like what John Wesley called sanctification – as the Holy Spirit of Jesus works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more. (2 Corinthians 3.18)
The challenging part is opening ourselves to the creative work of the Spirit who continues to add layer and layer of experience to our lives, often applying heat to make sure each layer is married to the next.
Even more challenging is the commitment to walk with others on that same journey, allowing them to see the creative, often hard, work of the Spirit in our lives and sticking with them as the Spirit shapes them into something new and beautiful.
*Read more of Dr. Kim Reisman’s posts on the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism’s Gospel Life website here.