Thursday, August 07, 2014

Wax and Wane

This morning I watched this video by Sandy Allnock.

She is an artist who does paper-crafting - mainly cards.  In it, she is talking to her future self.  She is currently experiencing a very creative and productive time in the work she does, but remembers that previously, she had about an eight month period of low mojo - a less than creative and productive time.  Creativity, naturally, I think, experiences sine waves of intensity - there are times when we are more creative than other times.  In the video, Sandy shares three things she wants her future, not-as-creative self to remember.  As I listened to her, I thought what she was saying would apply to our spiritual lives, as well.  My experience, and the experience of others I have spoken with, is that there are times when we feel closer to God than other times. Do we just wait for the distance to end, or is there something we can do about it.

  1. Sandy advises her future self to "just do something, every day."  Doodle, make something (anything!), color, play with art - even if she doesn't feel inspired or if the product isn't any good.  Just keep practicing.  I think we can do that spiritually, too.  Spiritual disciplines aren't designed for when we feel God close close close.  They are designed for when God isn't close.  Just do something, everyday.  Read, pray, praise, worship, fast, meditate, listen to music, speak with other Christians, feed the hungry - just do something everyday, even if you don't feel inspired.  Practice, even if it doesn't seem as if anything good is coming out of it.
  2. Secondly, Sandy tells herself to be ruthless.  Her discipline is to put the cards she makes in a box, and when the box is full, to throw the worst one away.  It's a reminder to her that there are standards. The is a level of proficiency below which she will not accept.  This means that sometimes she makes a card, and she won't put it in the box because she knows it isn't good enough.  She'll work on it some more, or she'll toss it before it makes it to the box.  I'm not sure how we can apply this to our spiritual lives, because we don't often produce something that we can add to a box, but I think it speaks to us about how we accept the times of distance; perhaps we tell ourselves that this is not acceptable.  As a Christian, there is a line of spirituality that we will not cross; we cannot just give up on wait for things to get better.  There are things we can do to improve our relationship with God, even when we don't feel like it, so we can't just give up.
  3. Sandy's third piece of advice is to try something new.  Make something different.  If painting isn't working, then do fiber craft.  If card making doesn't inspire, then go write a poem.  Do something new that you didn't think you would like.  We can do that, too.  Inspiration for teaching Sunday school not there?  Then go volunteer at a homeless shelter.  Having trouble getting up and going to worship?  Try writing cards to homebound people.  Go visit them.  Stretch yourself and try something you don't think you will like.  Your devotional time in the morning feeling flat?  Throw out your resource and find something new.  Go on a retreat!

How close we feel to God can wax and wane, but God is always there.  We don't have to accept the distance as unavoidable.  Even if what we do isn't immediately effective, perhaps there is something we can learn about ourselves or about God during these quiet times.

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