|Posted by Joan Zabelka on February 25, 2012 at 1:00 AM|
For the last few years I've made a mixed media Lenten journal. I don't quite remember how it began, but I knew that I wanted to really keep in touch with Lent. I wanted it to be part of my daily experience. I felt that too many Lents had gotten away from me due to the business of raising a family, working, and the rest of life. It wasn't like I wasn't aware of fasting and giving up things; I just didn't feel invested in Lent.
Creating a mixed media Lenten journal kept me focused on intimacy with God - God my Creator, God my Redeemer, and God my Inspiration. The journal kept me in touch with my emotions. I try very hard to ignore them usually and "put on a happy face." That isn't always the best thing to do so I allowed myself to feel, face, and interact with my emotions. God became part of the conversation between me and the pages.
There are wonderful moments reflected in those journals and some very dark and sad moments. Some of the incidents have faded from memory and all I have left is a symbolic reminder of what occurred. When I see other pages, memories reignite the feelings and passion I felt at the time. Both birth and death found their way to the page along with joy and sorrow. I found myself happy on some pages, though extremes seemed to surface more often than not.
Because of the journal, I challenged myself a lot. I challenged myself to tie my everyday life to God, I challenged God to reveal Himself to me on a daily basis, and I tried to make sense of it or just wallow in the mystery.
I will admit, the hardest challenge was to accept this thing called "mystery." To accept that some things are mysteries and unlike a good Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes story, the mystery would not be solved.
I was able to get a grip on "mystery" only through the symbolism on my pages - the color, the images, or the papers collaged in the book. That is how humankind has traditionally gotten in touch with God and mystery - through symbolism and art.
The curtain in the Jewish temple kept us symbolically separated from God. Jesus tore down the curtain with His death and resurrection, but He didn't make life that much easier to understand with His incarnation. For me, it only adds to the mystery. Jesus' stories and parables are sometimes straight forward and then on a second reading they become puzzles full of symbolism and missing pieces - full of mystery.
The Mystery reveals the mystery, yet leaves behind more mysteries to unravel. To believe is to delve into symbolism, no holds barred. To believe is to see the symbolism that is revealed in nature itself. Nature is unaware it is the harbinger of symbolism. It continues to go through the wonderful motions set in place billions of years ago by our Creator with not one bit of hubris that it has that much power over humans.
There are times I am too numb and upset to talk to God. I may have cried and screamed for a while, but it gets to a point where I don’t know what to say anymore. I’m done ranting. I know there are no answers to my questions. I am forlorn. (If you look that word up, that is the perfect word for how I feel.) And yet, I cannot walk away from God. I cannot abandon Him, disbelieve in Him, or ignore Him. God has anchored Himself so deeply in me that I cannot be set adrift no matter how rough the waters. I am His and He is mine. If it weren’t for metaphor and symbols how else would I understand that concept of Divine Love?
The Lenten journal is a perfect place to explore the Mystery of God’s love for me and mine for Him. It’s an excuse to stop, turn off the TV, the computer, and the phone and to just be with God and myself. The thought of that can be scary; we don’t often want to be that vulnerable. Yet, the more exposed we are, the closer to God we can become.
When we drop the defense, the excuses, and the ego then we can invite God in to be with us more intimately. Well, what we really experience is - God is with us always, but now we notice Him. We invite, but we are the invited. It’s all so convoluted –again that’s why symbolism and art help to explain or at least enlighten us to a certain point when words get to be too much.
Symbols speak to something deep in us. Carl Jung called it the “collective unconscious.” I believe God had it in mind all along as the universe was being created – a hawk will always be more than a bird of prey and a snake will always be more than an elongated, legless, carnivorous reptile of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears (thank you Wikipedia).
Why not grab a sheet of paper or a journal page and a box of crayons, colored pencils or markers and sit quietly and see what images come to you. You don’t have to be an artist to create an image…that’s why we have doodles, stick men, daisies and hearts as symbols to mean what we can’t always put into words. You might also be interested in our monthly Mandala Workshops. That’s where we allow special time for a ritual that connects us to our Source. We would love to have you join us.
"Whoooo Do You Say I Am?" Is the theme of my Lent 2012 Journal. It is a work in progress so I decied to show you pages from last year's journal "Transormation through Trust."