How Art Helps Me to Be Still

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
2014 03 09 12 29 08 0

Our God says, “Calm down, and learn that I am God! All nations on earth will honor me.”

Psalms 46:10

Being still has never come easily to me, and I know I’m not alone. Whenever I ask friends how they are doing, the answer is inevitably some variation of, “I’m so busy!” Busy with work, busy with family, busy with looking for work, busy looking for the spouse with whom to have a family—we are all so very busy. Yet God says, “Calm down…” Or, in another well-known translation, “Be still and know that I am God.” How does this happen? How can we help one another to “calm down”?

At the end of 2013, I was, of course, busy. Despite the fact that I had taken the months of November and December off from work in order to observe a sabbatical, somehow my life was as hectic as ever. It is so ingrained in me to be doing things—writing, creating, and producing results—that to stop, to calm down, seemed impossible for me. The more I tried to be still, the antsier I became to be active and to achieve something.

There was one thing during those two months, however, that helped me come to a full stop: looking at art. During my two months off, I made it a practice to visit art galleries and museums regularly, not in order to attend openings or to research opportunities for the artists I represent, but rather to simply experience the gift that fine art is.

Over the Christmas holiday, my husband and I visited the National Gallery of Art. The museum was crowded with tourists, noisy with a cacophony of different languages being spoken, and docents trying to talk above the din. Yet, as I made my way through several galleries of impressionist paintings and stood before Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” series of three paintings, it was as if the noise did not exist. I stopped and stood, transfixed by the beauty, inspired by the breath of God’s Spirit right there in Gallery 87. In those moments, things that had weighed me down for months seemed trivial and unimportant. Encountering the beauty, skill, and inspiration in these works lifted my eyes away from myself and toward the glory that was before me.

Art—good art—can give us busy people a huge gift. It can help us stop and be still. You simply cannot rush through the experience of looking at art. Viewing art—experiencing art—demands that we slow down and set aside the cares of the world for a few moments in order to see—really see—what is before us.

A life of worship is a life that includes times of being still. While many find stillness through meditation, or prayer, or sitting quietly in a room surrounded by stained glass, I find stillness in the sanctuary of the gallery. It is there, the awe I feel when I experience great art, inevitably that leads to a sense of awe for the One who created all things, and from whom all blessings flow.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What comes to your mind when you consider the admonition to “be still and know that I am God”? Have you ever been transfixed by a painting or sculpture? Take a moment and reflect on what it was that so captured your heart and mind. Was it the color palette? The forms on the canvas? The textures? The scene itself? When, or in what circumstances, do you feel most able to “calm down” and consider God’s God-ness?

PRAYER: Creator God, how difficult it is for so many of us to quiet our hearts, calm down, and be still as we consider your majesty and wonder. Help us to identify the places where we are able to be still, so that we may be among those who know that you are God and among those who honor you. Amen.


Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry

This article is part of The High Calling series, Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry. At The High Calling, we believe that art creates a space where people may encounter God, opening a door for transformation. Have you felt it? It’s the way the light ripples across water; it’s the way a good story names something within you; it’s the music you dream in the middle of the night that haunts you in the day. God uses beauty to touch us in the deepest places. As image-bearers of the one true God, we are also co-creators with him, made to impact our culture and each other through the art we bring to life. Does this resonate with you? If so, consider sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or through your other social media and friendship networks.

Image by Deidra Riggs. Used with permission.