Welcome to Part 5 of "Beauty Out of Chaos and the Sacredness of Art" where we have been exploring the imprint of God in us which leads to the creation of beauty out of nothing, out of chaos. I am reading Beauty Will Save the World by Brian Zahnd and happened upon this last night, "The artist doesn't give us a journalistic photograph of an event, but an artistic interpretation of an event. The great masters of sacred art were both artists and theologians; through their work they have given us an artistic interpretation that reveals the inherent, but hidden, beauty of the cross." As I read Shauna's words today, I am struck by the writer's artistic interpretation of pain and sorrow or hope and joy as a means of revealing the beauty of the cross. As a writer reflects on life, are they not naming the work of Christ and the presence of God? Shauna Gauthier is a kindred soul, seeking goodness and glory in others, focused intently on story, and mothering women, including, but not limited to 4 biological daughters. I appreciate the struggle of embracing the art and calling of writing in her life and her thoughts on process she shares today. May I ask you, in what ways were you called to create?
I never really thought of myself as a writer, let alone an artist. Perhaps it's because when I was young, my writing was most familiar with the genre of survival. In the midst of the heartache of a broken home furnished primarily with the chaos of shame and abuse, I often retreated to the safety and sacredness of journaling. I had discovered a way to get the heaviness of those formative experiences onto those precious pages and pages, easing the burden of all I was being asked to carry through life.
I remember briefly entertaining the idea of embracing writing as a future career when I was a sophomore in high school, but that fleeting thought dissipated when my English teacher delivered the difficult blow of a B- on a creative writing piece I had worked so hard to craft. My fragile soul was no match for Ms. Meeker’s judgment, but I never entirely gave up the practice of writing. It was the faithful friend I carried with me everywhere I went in the years of adventure that followed.
Instead of becoming a writer, my vocational journey lead me down the path of youth ministry, on to international non-profit work and ultimately toward becoming a psychotherapist. I guess I never really ventured very far from the deep waters of chaos. It was the landscape I was most familiar with, but it was also where I was able to grow the capacity to see beauty underneath the brokenness, to glimpse the goodness distorted by sin, and to illuminate meaning in the midst of the complexities of life. Writing was the way in which I catalogued all that I came to see and understand along the way.
When I was in graduate school pursuing a degree in counseling psychology, I somehow found the courage to share my writing with an audience for the first time. It began as a joint blog endeavor meant to create a space to ponder lessons learned through the journey of graduate school, but it soon became far more than an online journal. My writing process began to shift. I was no longer simply journaling in the privacy of my own home where I could dump thoughts, fears, desires, and frustrations without the context of relationship. I wrestled with this new frame. It required a level of vulnerability and authenticity I wasn’t even yet able to offer directly in relationships, but it was in this process that I discovered how the writing and sharing of our stories can lead to healing.
Today I have come to understand that I do psychotherapy, but I am a writer. Early on, writing was a coping strategy and my saving grace, but in this stage of life it has matured and is serving an even greater purpose. I take some of the difficult and painful snap shots from this grand narrative we all live and move and exist within, and I run that gritty and messy material through the uniqueness of my own mind, sifting and sorting and searching for the beauty. It is always there. It is waiting to be discovered, extracted and molded into a gift of words for anyone willing to behold it. It is always there...in each and every one of our stories.
It still feels vulnerable and risky to share stories of trauma and healing, brokenness and beauty, death and life. But ultimately it is how I embody and embrace the Imago Dei.
The artist in each of us is uniquely designed to create in some way. For most, I presume our capacity to create was born out of some form of chaos. I’ll say it again, we are all meant to create.
Shauna Gauthier, MA is a writer currently blogging regularly at 3therapistswalkintoablog.com. She also works as a psychotherapist in her private practice located in Greenwood Village, Colorado. She most delights, however, in her role as mom to her four daughters and partner to her husband of 15 years.