Painted Prayerbook Sketches Journey of Faith

Artist Jan Richardson, whom I discovered through the Image Journal e-newsletter, blogs about faith and the creative process at The Painted Prayerbook. Her meditations on Bible readings from the Episcopal lectionary are accompanied by simple yet rich abstract paintings and collages that express her intuitive response to the text.

Recent posts that resonated with me include The Red Circle, about setting aside the ego in order to discern when your work is complete; and Transfiguration Sunday: Mum’s the Word (Maybe), where Richardson asks how the artist knows when, and in what medium, to tell a story that is important to her:

…In the absence of being able to build physical dwellings, the disciples would have wanted, I suspect, to construct a story about their mountaintop experience: a container of words, at least, that would help them hold and convey what had happened to Jesus and to themselves. Perhaps anticipating this, Jesus enjoins them not to tell what has transpired until after his resurrection. It’s one of the only times that Jesus, a man of action, urges them to wait. This is not for revealing, he tells them; this is for you to carry within you, to ponder, to conceal until the fullness of time.

Perhaps like Mary with the child in her womb.

It was important that Peter, James, and John have that mountaintop experience. It wasn’t important for them to tell the story, not yet; that wasn’t the point of their outing. But the experience would work on them, shape them, and continue to transform and perhaps even transfigure them. The knowledge they carried would alter every future encounter: with Jesus, with their fellow disciples, and with those to whom they ministered.

The story of the Transfiguration calls me to remember that there are times for revealing and times for concealing. There are seasons to tell our story. And there are seasons to hold the story within us so that we can absorb it, reflect on it, and let it (and us) grow into a form that will foster the telling.

As a writer and artist and preacher, I don’t claim to handle that line between revelation and concealment with consistent finesse. But I’ve figured out that one of the core questions in discerning whether to share an experience is this: Whom does the story serve? Does my telling it help you reflect on your life and how God is stirring within it? Or does it merely provide information I think you should know about my own life because I hope it will impress you and induce a response that serves me more than it does you?

How do you discern what and where to share about your life? Whom do your stories serve? Do you have a story of transformation that could help someone else? Is it time to tell it? Is there work that God still needs to do within you so that you can tell the story in the way it needs telling? Whether revealing or concealing, how are you continuing to become a dwelling for the presence of the God who transforms us?

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