Saturday, October 15, 2011

Drawing Our Lives

Photo by Tim Nafziger, CPT
Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana steps to the podium to bring the message on the second day of CPT's 25th Anniversary Peace Congress in Chicago.  As the worship had begun earlier in the morning, Pastor Shawna Bowman entered the empty space before the podium, knelt before the blank black page taped to the floor and began to draw.

By the time Dr. Shanta came forward, a border had been largely filled by Shawna and my eyes left her for a time, engaged in Dr. Shanta's words.

Theology, he reminded us, is not an abstraction.  It cannot be.  And we help determine the context in which each of our theologies will develop by the simple act of choosing:  who will be at table with you today?

Dr. Shanta was reminding us that the people of the margins are seldom invited to the tables of folks like me.  Perhaps it was the sting of that truth; I don't know.  But it was at that moment that my eyes reverted to Shawna's drawing.  It seemed somehow safer.

My line of sight is drawn by Shawna's actions to the far right side of her work.  There are figures running up the page, perpendicular to the floor.  I'm looking at her creation sideways.  As I look at Shawna's hands, I am captivated . . . she is literally drawing on the margins Dr. Shanta is describing. . . while he invites us to notice who is absent from the table, Shawna is drawing . . . curling, whorling, swirling black on black strokes . . . there, on the margins . . . on the margins of the page as in the margins of our lives . . . there, God is still speaking.

As Dr. Shanta continues to speak of the margin space, Shawna adds . . . more whorls and swirls, but now in vivid color . . . suddenly, the margins are alive . . . the place where movement is happening . . .

It's been there all along . . .

And the age-old invitation comes back . . . Let them with eyes to see see . . .

I am so grateful for the eyes of Shawna and Dr. Shanta and so many, many, others, living out there, at the margins, living and dancing and bringing life-giving color to those like me in the comfortable middle of things. . . that space where colors fade into complacency.

Blessings on us all.


  1. I think of the paper with the edges as also being like so many of us are inside. We only invite a portion of who we are to greet is safe to be the same ....but the wonderful god made differences in each of us stay out of reach of everyone and often even out of our own knowing....i wish and pray for a world where differences are like social currency that we can spend to make a loving place for all of us. I need to start with myself and have more courage to bring all of myself to the table.....and to reach out to the scary differences in stead of staying safely the same Ann

  2. 'to bring all of myself to the table . . . and to reach out to the scary differences instead of staying safely the same' - Ann - those words have stayed with me all week. It is scary to meet each other, masks off, I think. But also oh, so much better, to know and to be known in the 'real' tense.