When I was young, my family sat at the back of church because we were usually late. Shuffling four kids to church was nothing short of a miracle for my mother. But I remember one Sunday we arrived early enough to find a pew closer to the altar. I had a clear view as the priest raised the host for Communion, and then, I noticed the kneeling altar boy gently ringing bells. The ringing filled the church. I was horrified. Until that day, I thought the ringing came from God Himself, when all along there was this boy ringing the bells on cue. I started questioning everything I knew to be true.
My mother encouraged us to ask questions. She wanted us to maintain faith and belief in infinite possibility. But she also stressed the importance of staying open to new perspectives, while ultimately trusting our own hearts. In his book, “Callings,” Gregg Levoy says, “Friction is a fundamental property of nature…nothing grows without it – not mountains, not pearls, not people.” On the eve of my confirmation, my class was required to go to confession. I had this conversation with the priest:
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a day since my last confession.”
“A day? Why are you back?”
“My teacher said I have to give my confession to you. I spoke to God on my own last night, but I am supposed to tell you my sins, too, so I can get confirmed tomorrow.”
The priest was kind. We had a nice chat about how having a priest to confide in can supplement a direct line with God, maybe offer new perspectives. At 13, I thought he was full of crap. But today, my paradigms have again shifted, and I recognize the truth in what he said. It can be good to share your challenges with someone who listens without attachment and helps you see you are not alone in whatever you are going through. It doesn’t have to be a priest; it can be a therapist, friend, rabbi, pastor, teacher, or family member. Shared vulnerability is sacred. It’s how we grow.
Adams County Arts Council’s (ACAC) healing arts program values the healing power of shared vulnerability through creative expression. This eight-week class is facilitated by a therapist and visited by multiple artists so participants can explore, question, share, and grow using different mediums. This spring, ACAC has also scheduled plein air painting and our annual golf tournament to take you outdoors. We plan these things because we have faith that winter will end, and spring will come again.
The Buddha said life is suffering. Jesus’ story says this, too. So does the seed that blooms into a flower, the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly, and the winter that gives birth to spring. Like seeing that altar boy ring the bell for the first time, new perspectives and experiences can create friction with the things we think we know, but that is how we grow. Practicing art with others can be an amazing vehicle to navigate the journey. A good round of golf sometimes helps, too.