Monday, September 21, 2015

Life's Palette

Every year, Education for Ministry (EfM) begins the term with class members writing a spiritual autobiography. It can be a fairly straightforward timeline of one's spiritual growth, or it can be a theme like stepping stones or different "worlds" we have lived in. This year, our invitation came in the form of colors. Not that every year isn't interesting, but this one (for me anyway) was fun.

This year one choice was to create an artist's palette and name the colors that went into our spiritual growth and maturity. As long as I don't have to actually draw anything, I'm fine with this.  I found a drawing of a palette with some splashes where colors would go and I was off.  Someone on the mentors' list sent around a chart of colors and what they represented in various religious traditions. That was interesting. There was also another that listed colors with equivalent emotions, things, and drives that those colors represented. My challenge was to come up with some sort of color coding for various parts of my life that reflected on who I was spiritually. It was both easier than I had expected and more difficult. Not being an artist, I had no idea how to set up a palette, and being a lover of colors of all kinds, it was hared to choose which color to put where.

I chose brown to represent my house, my comfort, refuge and place where I most want to be. It recharges my batteries and holds my beloved cats, lots of books, and bits and pieces of life in various places. There's Mama's cedar chest and several tiny pitchers from her collection. There is a brass trivet with the monogram of William and Mary, symbolizing the place I will always call home, no matter how long I live away from it. Of course, there are many others, things that bring me joy and remembrance.

Orange represented energy, balance and warmth, things that brought people to mind. There are so many friends, past and present, that served as guides and examples of living a Christian life. There were some who kind of fostered me both growing up and going through many life changes, without whom I would have been totally lost. They are friends to laugh with, commiserate with, and just be silent with, which is the truest test of friendship. I'm grateful for all of them, far more grateful than I will ever be able to express.

Yellow is imagination, hope, and joy, things that I find in EfM. Every year I learn more and more, and that to me is joy.  Yellow, however, is also jealousy, covetousness and several other major sins, ones that I have in abundance it seems, no matter how hard I try to control them. Yellow needs to be a balance point between the two.

Green is one of my favorites, representing nature and renewal. In my spiritual life, I chose green to represent the thin places I've experienced, those places where the veil between heaven and earth is very close and almost permeable. One is my river back home where I always felt the presence of God in the lapping of the waves on the shore or the crash against the rocks. I miss it. Another place is the National Cathedral, a place I have visited a number of times with the dear friend who invited me to the Episcopal church she attended and where I found myself thoroughly at home. Christmas Eve about midnight is a very thin space, as is the Eve of All Souls.

Red is for passion, desire, power, love -- things that I find in reading and writing. I love writing and honestly desire to be a much better writer than I am. I read almost constantly and have done since about third grade. Love is also what I feel for those I feel close to, people I can trust implicitly and who, I hope, can trust me the same way. These are the people I rely on.

Show someone the color purple and they will think of royalty (so do I, as a totally unabashed fan of the Queen). It also stands for spirituality, ceremony, mystery, and wisdom. I'm a student of various kinds of spirituality. I fell in love with the Episcopal church because of its ceremony and liturgy, things I felt I lacked in the church of my childhood. Purple is also for wisdom, something I crave and try to practice whenever possible.

Blue is peace, tranquility, calm, and confidence. It's the color of water, sapphires, the clear sky, the Virgin Mary's mantle, and modern Advent candles (three of them, anyway). It's also a symbolic color for depression, something with which I am quite familiar.

Black for me represents death. There have been so many deaths in my family and throughout my life and each one seems to chip a little piece of my heart away. I am not afraid of dying myself; I am ready whenever it comes. For me, black also represents cancer. Having had two kinds of it already, I have a fear (also a black emotion) that it will come back again. I call it "Cancer brain." I don't dwell on it constantly, but I'd be lying if I said it never crossed my mind.

There's a white spot of paint in the middle of my palette. White is reverence, simplicity, and humility. White is a color that mixes with any other to make tints and shades. Reverence, simplicity and humility are traits I try to cultivate but fear I will never really succeed. I keep trying, though.

So where is God in all this?  It's very simple: God is the palette upon which I rest my colors, mix my shades and tints, live my life, and work  to be the kind of person I am supposed to be. I can hold on to God with one finger through the thumb-hole of the palette, but God supports the rest of my hand and life.

And there it is. Maybe not much of a spiritual autobiography as someone else would recognize it, but it's what I think and feel. I've gained some insights from it, even if it isn't perfect. Thank God that there is no one and only "right" way of doing these things. I'm looking forward to seeing what next year's will be like.

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