Picture This: Using Art As a Path to the Holy Spirit

Prayer is difficult. I know I need to be with God and bask in his presence, but my mind darts and dashes about. I have discovered that either at home, looking at art books or art on the internet, or at museums, I can stay focused for much longer. I seem to get lost in the images. So, I have begun to use art to focus when the world seems to spin around me. 

Each time I go to a museum, I purchase a few postcards of the art I enjoyed that day. Once at home, I put them in a shoebox. Sometimes I receive mail from a friend that captivates me, or clip out photos from magazines and put those in the box. When I cannot pray, when my mind wanders, or when I want to see something beautiful, I pick one out from the box and sit in my comfy chair.

Today I sit with artist Andrew Wyeth’s “Wind From the Sea.” It depicts an open window. Transparent curtains flutter in the breeze. The window looks out to an open field. Trees and water appear in the distance. I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths to quiet my heart and mind. I invite God to speak to me through the picture. 

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I imagine myself in the painting. I feel the breeze from the open window soft against my face. I keep breathing into it and as I follow my breath, I begin to hear the sound of the sea. I hear the rhythm of the waves coming in and rolling back, like my breath. I smell the salty air. I hear seagulls calling in the distance. And I sense the Holy Spirit as that wind billowing the curtains.

I now realize just how tense I was before I sat down. Life is chaotic and confusing right now, but I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit calming me. I begin to cry because I have no words to speak, to pray. Then I feel I don’t need to. I feel God saying to just sit here a bit, to rest in his presence.

I look closer at the picture and notice there are tiny birds embroidered on the lace curtains. Doves? I laugh as if I have a joke with the Holy Spirit. I wipe a tear away and smile. I am beginning to feel better. Renewed.

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Another look at the picture reveals a path leading out to the water. I imagine walking down that path. What might I find when I reach the water? I imagine tide pools full of wonders; purple sea stars, crimson crabs, and pulsating sea cucumbers. It makes me hopeful for the future, not as anxious as when I first sat down. 

There is a quiet stillness in this picture. A healing stillness.

I know I can return to this practice, especially when I am at a loss for words. I look at a picture and let it find the words for me by asking questions. Why did I choose this particular picture? Where do I feel most comfortable in the picture? If there are figures in the picture, am I drawn to one in particular? Why is that? I find if I sit with the picture, it reveals itself to me. My own heart begins to be revealed. And God’s love is revealed in all of these places.