I read a blog post the other day encouraging writers to write. Like, don’t ignore it because you’re busy with other hobbies or projects or life because if you’re really a writer, it’ll hurt you, body and soul, not to write. It’s unhealthy not to write.
But what if you can’t, literally can’t?
There are twin wings of fire stretching across my back, searing into my shoulders.
The thought comes to me one day, one of the bad days. I like how that sounds, twin wings of fire. I imagine them stretching behind me, devouring my days in a smoky haze of hurt.
I take a shower and let the soothing warmth cascade down my burning shoulders and start composing a poem in my head about twin wings of fire. There are many different kinds of pain, I am learning. When it’s bad, I like to describe the pain mentally with the most vivid words I can conjure. They’re good poems, these ones inscribed in my mind.
I wonder if I’ll ever write them.
I discover that every part of me that hurts is also a part of God mentioned in the Bible.
My hands scream after holding a pencil—but He has a mighty right hand, and I am held in His palm.
My arms throb—but He has everlasting arms (teach me to lean on them).
My shoulders ache after only an hour of work—but His shoulders, they bear the weight of kingdoms.
These comparisons comfort me, they get me out of bed each day and quell the cries of terror at night.
When I scroll through blogs, I feel a cold ball settle in my stomach. With every word I read, I feel a dart of pain shoot through my heart. I should be happy, should be encouraged by my friends’ words, should rejoice over their art. But I don’t. Instead, I feel sick. Sick with jealousy. I want to write, I want to create, I want glowing comments on my blog. And then I feel sick at myself. I’m a horrible friend. I’m a horrible person.
I guess that’s one good thing that’s coming from this: I’m realizing how weak I am, physically and spiritually.
these dreams like ashes float away
Your voice I never heard
where were You when our hearts were bleeding?
where were You, it all crashed down?
never thought that You’d deceive me
where are You now?
I have asked this question many times.
But I have found that it only leaves me drained, full of more despair.
why why why
It leaves me focused on the darkness. But oh God, I need to see the light.
So I have been trying to say thank you instead.
thank you that I can get out of bed by myself, dress myself, feed myself
thank you that I can hear music
thank you that I can see the faces of people I love and ink on a page and sunlight through trees
thank you that I can taste chocolate
thank you that I can smell the air after a rain storm
thank you that I can touch my soft sheets and my little sister’s cheek
thank you that I can think, that I have a good mind, that I can learn and analyze and ponder
thank you for friends that pray for me and laugh with me and help me keep on dreaming
thank you for a family where we say “I love you” to each other and make up after fights, for a home that’s a safe place
thank you for You, for Your crazy promises that You’ll never leave me and You have a plan
Nothing is wasted, sings Jason Gray.
And my dad says to me: God will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.
I guess, if I really needed to write right now, I would be able to. But I’m not. So God will get me through another way.
One day, I was sitting on my bed, crying, and the fragments of poems I’ve drafted in my head whispered through my mind, and I thought of all the poetry I’ve been memorizing recently because that at least is something I can do, and it hit me suddenly, a Truth so much stronger and truer than the reality of my current affliction—
there is a kind of poetry in pain
I jumped off the bed and scribbled it on a piece of paper, and it lay there on my desk for days, a silent shout of defiance.
Somehow this pain is opening my eyes to deeper truths of poetry and art and beauty and how they are all woven into our lives, and someday it will help me create poetry that is better and deeper and truer than it ever could have been if I had been fine.
I read, once, that all great artists have some kind of tragedy in their lives, and I used to be anxious because I’ve really had a great life, so I probably would never be a great artist … but now, I’m suffering. It’s not a tragedy as horrific as many others have endured, of course, but it’s suffering all the same.
And I believe that God will use this taking away of my art to eventually enable me to create even better art.
Just a fading memory
And everything’s gone but the pain carries on
Lost in the rain again
When will it ever end?
The arms of relief seem so out of reach
But I, I am here
I will carry you through it all
I won’t leave you, I will catch you
When you feel like letting go
Cause you’re not, you’re not alone
I want to create art. It’s what I’m called to do, made to do. I can hear my soul crying out to add some beauty to this world.
But I can’t draw or write or play an instrument, I can’t create art, I can’t—
A quote rises from the mists of my memory, from Henry Hames’ The Portrait of a Lady:
“Don’t you remember my telling you to make your life a work of art?”
It’s one of those moments when I know God is speaking directly to me.
I may not be able to create art of paper or pen (or screen), no, but couldn’t I make it of my life?
Could me praising God in the pain be my painting, with brushstrokes of thankfulness and a fierce, shining, defiant joy?
Could me treating my siblings kindly, with respect and care despite my own problems or agenda, be my song, with notes of love and grace?
Could my every breath, my every mundane task, my every falling and being forgiven be my poem, etched in my actions for all to read?
Could my life be art?
What a masterpiece a life could be, so far beyond one small novel or sketch. Maybe by taking away my original dream, God is showing me one far greater.
Of course He is. That’s the kind of God He is. I put limits on Him, told Him He couldn’t use me to make something beautiful if I couldn’t write.
But whoever heard of God not being able to do something?
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~ 2 corinthians 12:9-10