Release and Healing

Art: Old and New

Release and Healing
Thursday, November 14, 2019

My art flows from the patterns and paths of my lived experience which—like yours—are at once deeply personal and entirely universal. —Julie Ann Stevens, Living School Alumna [1]

Today contemporary theologian Dr. Diana L. Hayes shares a very personal part of her life and the healing she found in the creative process. In Hayes’ book No Crystal Stair, she describes herself:

I am a Catholic womanist, standing firmly in the shoes my mothers made for me and walking toward a future in which all of God’s creation will be recognized and affirmed regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. I am black. I am Catholic. And by the grace of God, I am here. I invite you to share my journey of self-discovery and faith. . . . My spirituality, a womanist spirituality, that is, a spirituality forged in the awareness and experience of the multiplicative forms of oppression that are used to limit and restrain black women, has been honed and sharpened by my journey with God throughout my life. . . . Womanist spirituality is the encounter of black women and Jesus spelled out in song, poetry, novels, and memoirs that speak of the everlasting struggle as they continue to move themselves and their people one step closer to the Promised Land, a land to be found after death, yes, but more important, a land they know has been promised in this life as well. [2]

Hayes writes about her mother’s unexpected death after a brief illness:

The shock of her death sent me on a devastatingly downward spiral, although few knew about it. I look back at the time from April of 1998 through the end of 2000 and have very little memory of anything except her death and my grief.

Some time before that, I had been asked to write a meditation on a series of pictures that depicted the Stations of the Cross on the whitewashed walls of a small church in a village in Tanzania. The artist, Charles Ndege, a young Tanzanian, had brought the passion of Christ to bold and vibrant life. What was most striking was that the passion was presented as taking place in a small African village and all of the people were clearly and beautifully depicted as African. I had had the pictures for some time and would occasionally pull them out and look at them, especially when I was feeling low. One day, as I again sat listening to gospel music and spirituals, words began to form in my mind and I scrambled to write them down. . . . Writing [that] book brought healing to my soul. Some few have challenged the depiction of Christ as black, thus revealing their own ignorance and limited faith, but for many, this book, especially its pictures, has provided spiritual release and healing. [3]

Like Hayes, I too have found healing through the creative process of writing. My beloved lab Venus passed away just as I began to write The Universal Christ. I dedicated the book to her memory. If we trust that nothing is wasted, creativity (art) may be one way we can participate in the evolutionary process of making all things new. We cannot bring back our loved ones, but our love may find new forms of expression for the healing of both our own hearts and the world.

References:
[1] Julie Ann Stevens, https://listenwritetransform.wordpress.com/subscribe/.

[2] Diana L. Hayes, No Crystal Stair: Womanist Spirituality (Orbis Books: 2016), xxviii, xxiii, xxvi, xxvii.

[3] Ibid., xxviii, xxxi-xxxii. The book Hayes refers to is by Diana L. Hayes and Charles Ngede, Were You There?: Stations of the Cross (Orbis Books: 2000).

Image credit: Woman Standing Near a Pond (detail), Edward Mitchell Bannister, Canada and United States, 1880.
Inspiration for today’s banner image: Womanist spirituality is the encounter of black women and Jesus spelled out in song, poetry, novels, and memoirs that speak of the everlasting struggle as they continue to move themselves and their people one step closer to the Promised Land, a land to be found after death, yes, but more important, a land they know has been promised in this life as well. —Diana L. Hayes
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