Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
"Bonheoffer said that when Christ calls a man he bids him come and die. He never said there wouldn’t be brothers and sisters reaching down in joy, arm in arm, to start the long, difficult climb out from the grave together." ~ Kevin Marks
It was an artists meeting. Happening one summer night.
A bunch of creative types. Painters, designers, illustrators, poets, dancers, musicians... writers.
I got the email a couple months ago and thought, "Who... me?"
Hmm... No one had ever called me that before.
But here I was being invited to this gathering -- because a few weeks before that, I ran into a guy at church in the parking lot.
I was actually there to steal wi-fi. My son's preschool was ending earlier that day. So, I had a little time to burn before picking him up. Church was close by. So I thought I'd swing by, drive to the back of the church where no one could see me, and try to do some writing.
But, I couldn't log on. I thought I had the right wi-fi password. So, I looked around. And saw a guy, getting ready to step into his truck.
It was Kevin. The church's creative arts director.
I called out to him across the pavement. "Hey...Kevin...! Do you know the passcode to get to the wi-fi?"
It turns out the wi-fi didn't reach out that far.
You had to be inside the building in order to get the wi-fi signal.
I hadn't talked to Kevin since last year. I said hi once. I was new to the community at the time (still am, really) and didn't know anyone yet. I was drowning in the deepest part of post-traumatic stress last year, when I would hardly venture out of my house, much less socially engage. I didn't want any talk about writing. It would trigger an avalanche of who-knows-what-kind of anxiety.
When I recovered well enough, I wanted to look into this artist gathering thing at church.
But, I didn't really consider myself an artist. The word artist sounds free. Unhindered. Expressive. Me?
I'm just trying to figure out how to get words on a page again. Without panic attacks.
Then, I decided in the moment to do something unplanned.
I asked him if he had a few minutes.
"Sure. What's going on?" Kevin asked.
Kevin needed to transport some equipment back to the church office, so I knew there wasn't time to tell him my life story.
So, I just spit it out. Panic attacks. I think I need to kill the book I started writing. To write a different story. The story I've been journeying through. Stress and anxiety. How I’m finding God even though it looks nothing like I'd want it to.
I’m scared to write this way. Without an outline. Without 10 main points and a pretty bow to wrap up each chapter. That's how I've always written.
Maybe the truth is that's how I've always tried to live life.
Maybe faith is taking me beyond any points I can come up with -- to free His story in me.
So that I'm no longer holding onto anything, except the hand that is leading me.
Walk Off Script
Maybe that's what it means to be an artist by faith.
To walk off script with Jesus, as that little girl out into the world.
Relinquishing any other goal, other than being honest in the moment with Jesus.
About what I'm thinking.
What I'm feeling.
About what I'm needing. And wanting.
To let Him in. So that I won't be alone.
To let others in. So that I don't have to travel the journey of faith alone either.
We are all on our journey of healing, after all.
Looking at the broken pieces that seem to fall out of us now and then.
Picking them up. And placing them out on the open canvas of our lives.
Not because they make sense. But, because they are real.
They are a part of us.
Because those are the places where Jesus is alive in us.
Kevin later asked me to come and share with the group about my journey of writing. How it led me to have panic attacks and how they have led me to re-write my life and my book in an entirely new way.
I said yes.
Because I knew behind that email was the whisper of Jesus, inviting me to sit with him there tonight.
To meet these nameless faces of brothers and sisters. With Him next to me.
To open my heart. And share from where I'm at.
The week I said yes, I immediately experienced anxiety and panic attacks. Because you see, I would definitely prefer to keep it all tucked away inside. Just like I have for decades. This will be the first time I share my journey through post traumatic stress in the skin beyond the privacy of a friend.
And it terrifies me, even though that's where my heart is leading me.
To touch the artistic life I've hidden deep inside.
That Jesus remembers.
The part of me that has tasted pain and longs for beauty all the same.
A Deeper Story
I didn't know what I'd say exactly.
But, I wanted to share how something unexpected and uninvited has begun a discovery of deeper, painful stories in me. And I wanted to say -- just as passionately -- how re-living those stories is bringing me to re-write a new deeper story of faith in me.
This deeper story of faith is the one I'm journeying through with Jesus -- live today -- with you.
That night, I took one step into journeying in the skin with new friends, who are my brothers and sisters.
And maybe what I'm attempting to put into words on a page will feel a little less scary, because I'm a little more known in the skin.
Because the parts of me that are broken are walking out into the world.
After all, Jesus gathered with his friends the night He was about to walk out into the world completely broken -- unrecognizably broken -- by faith too.
Do you find yourself, as I do, drawn to hiding out in the "back parking lot," outside of community, to live your artistic life with Jesus?
Have you been waiting, like me, to get better -- to scale the face of a cliff in your heart -- before you give yourself permission to open up with others?
That step in your journey of faith -- the one you've been trying to be strong and protect yourself from by journeying alone -- may be the very thing that brings you connection with others.
That wi-fi I was hoping to squirrel away without being known, to write alone?
The signal was strong and clear, as I opened my laptop, inside the building -- after asking if I could come in.
For just a little bit.
Is there something God is inviting you to share in community -- in-the-skin -- that you've done mostly hidden alone?
Is there an artistic life that you've never allowed yourself to touch -- that God may be whispering for you to draw near?
Pull up a chair. click to comment. Share where you are in your faith journey today and let's step into each other's stories. Because giving voice to where Jesus is speaking to you -- and listening to each other in this moment with Jesus here -- is prayer.
I'll be sharing what happend at the meeting when I gave my talk in "Part 2: The Artistic Life" next week here on Crosswalk.
If you’re on the journey of faith to walk out into the world, I’d love your company. Join me on my blog, on facebook or twitter as I stumble and journey in community together. Let's keep speaking words of encouragement and friendship with each other in our faith stories -- as it's being made and lived. As is.
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)courage. Bonnie is currently working on her debut book, to be published by Revell Books in 2014. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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Photo credit: peachygrl8 via Photobucket.