By Heather Thompson, Blue Phoenix Art
All images are the original artwork of Heather Thompson, BluePhoenixArt. Purchase Inquiries can be made by replying to this message or via www.BluePhoenixArt.com
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
For most of my life, I felt alienated by the language of the Church. I did not have a religious upbringing, though my dad was Presbyterian and my family believed in God. I yearned for a sense of belonging in a faith community, yet the words used in liturgy, sermons, and Bible readings felt inaccessible and awkward. I had an undiagnosed chronic illness that would leave me dizzy every time we stood up or sat down (POTS dysautonomia). I felt embarrassed that I knew nothing of the Bible, yet, having cultivated a powerful relationship with God as a teenager in Al-Anon, my faith was strong. I felt much safer with my community in the basement than I did in the sanctuary.
As I looked for a denomination and church to join, I continued to feel as if I didn’t belong. Even after being baptized, I couldn’t help but wonder, If I don’t understand the “thee”s and “thou hast”s during the service, how can I be sure that I know how to pray? Do I even belong in church? If I don’t go to church, will I go to Hell? I carried so much fear!
After a life-changing concussion in 2011, suddenly I had a passion for theology, the Bible and TheoArtistry. Words that didn’t make sense before the accident were suddenly easy to grasp; but ironically, verbalizing my understanding was close to impossible. I began to paint my responses in color.
I remember gathering my courage one day to voice my struggle with the inaccessibility of religious language among fellow seminarians. My confidence was shaky, but I felt safe with my mentor in the room to express my truth in our small discussion group. After I spoke about the feeling of alienation, the table was quiet, then a fellow student responded, “Maybe you shouldn’t be in the Church, then.”
Ouch. There it was—my biggest fear, out for everyone to see… and then I realized that this fear was inconsistent with my beliefs about God.
Romans 8 has been a formative chapter for me since I began studying scripture in seminary. At the root of my faith journey, and this chapter, is the promise that GOD’S LOVE pours forth regardless of whether I say a prayer correctly or ask the right way. This promise has many names: Grace. Kenosis. The Courage to Be. For me, it is the gift I experience every time I paint; with no plan and no words, I allow the art to emerge from my fingertips.
Beyond words, God joins humanity in our growth, pain, transformation, and suffering without needing us to say a thing. I paint. Others move, cry, breathe, groan, just as life groans into being, just as the Spirit intercedes with groans: a vibration found at the root of creation.