It all started with a set of CPE assignments: bring works of art paired with verbatims as part of the process, and reflect with art instead of words. It wasn’t that words were unwelcome, but it was an acknowledgment that words sometimes have their own limits, that images have the power to convey what words cannot, and that there are things, pre-verbal things, that cannot find voice in a very verbal world.
In the last unit of a year-long CPE residency, it was a huge shift, but it made perfect sense. After all, how many times had I sat with patients, staff, and family and had said the words, “Sometimes, there are no words…” in the face of unfathomable sadness and unthinkable trauma.
At first, it was difficult to switch gears. I did not know what to draw. I did not know what to convey. The medium of paint felt foreign compared to the familiar medium of words.
Then, it started with a bunch of words overlaying a simple shape. Then, a picture with a few smattering of words. Then, a larger picture with a first-ever haiku. Until one day, there was a painting with no recognizable shape and no words that still meant something more than the blue, green, and black on the page.
In the beginning, God created. After a flurry of creativity, God rested… stepped back, took a look, admired God’s handiwork and said, “It is good.” I imagine that that work of creation meant more than just the mere colors and shapes and textures that were on God’s canvas. A whole new story about to unfold was embedded within creation.
We are invited to be part of that story as ones who are created in the imago Dei. We are invited to be part of God’s creation and re-creation. And after a flurry of creativity, we are invited to rest… to step back, take a look, and say, “this is good”… and find that we have more creativity and energy to participate in God’s mission and ministry creating and re-creating in the world.