The house we’re living in in Englewood is rather lovely. It’s an old, townhouse-style brick building. Our team inhabits the first floor and the basement, with an amazing older couple who goes to our church living on the second floor. Our first floor has the living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, our leader’s room, the girls’ room, and the boys’ room. The basement is, more of less, our (Adam and Kristin’s) space. When we first moved in, we had a pile of furniture and a handful of little pictures and things to put up on walls and in corners to make the house feel homey. Because six out of eight of us lives on the first floor, and we were planning on hosting people in the living room and dining room, we put almost all of our decorations and things on the first floor.
Very quickly, we both found ourselves being a little weirded out by the stark, white walls of our living space downstairs. I in particular, was not only weirded out, but very negatively affected, to an extent that was rather unexpected. Partially as a reaction to that, I was pushed into a frenzy of creativity and the pursuit of beauty and art. I began teaching myself piano, drawing, Spanish, and Swahili. In the completely foreign context of the hood in Chicago where beauty was, at the time, not easy to see, this is how I was seeking that beauty.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “beauty is God’s handwriting,” and that “a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world.” In my experience, with beauty comes hope, love, peace, and connection to God. For me personally, it is often difficult for me to connect with others if I do not first have these other valuable things in my life.
In the past few months, this outpouring of creativity has also been born from a desire for freedom. My life within Mission Year is restricted and not at all autonomous. I have been stripped of any authority over my time, my relationships, my money. I’m being stripped of my gifts, my abilities, and my knowledge by rendering all that useless by the complete disregard of anything and almost everything I have come to regard as something that makes me me.
Within the centering of creativity, I have been able to, on some level, return to feeling “myself”. Even if it’s just for the few fleeting minutes that I am actively and freely engaging in playing piano, learning Spanish or English, writing creatively, or trying to draw. In the return to feeling like I am myself again, I also find that these are the all-too-brief moments where I feel truly connected to God once again.