Last week, I was chatting with a friend about her job as a psyche nurse. We got onto the topic of how creativity and mental illness often co-exist. She mentioned a particular artist that I knew very little about. When I returned home, I looked him up, fascinated by the stories my friend told from his wife’s memoir.
Walter Anderson is a famous Mississippi artist and, yes, he did struggle with mental illness. Despite his time in and out of mental institutions, he left behind quite a body of work.
Unfortunately, much of his work was destroyed when Hurricane Katrina ravaged our coastal region a decade ago.
For a moment, I just sat in silence, imagining all of my writing, all of my words, washed over by ocean waves. It’s a heartbreaking and humbling scenario for an artist of any kind, to imagine all that you made is now destroyed.
God is an artist. You and I? We are his life’s work.
Despite all of the things I doubt in life and faith, I believe that to be true. I believe God created, and I believe God loves that creation, just as I love the stories and poems filling my hard drive and overflowing from journals and notebooks and boxes and binders.
When we are destroyed, whether by natural disaster (circumstances) or by our own decisions, I believe God feels how I would feel if my writing disappeared. He feels bereft. He wants to fix us, save us, remake us.
Inside the Ocean Springs Community Center, work is under way to restore murals painted by Walter Anderson. As I have gone about life this week, I keep thinking of those murals and of that work. How does one restore a painting?
With great care and attention to detail… with hard work and difficult decisions…
The good news for us that does not go for the art of Walter Anderson is this: The original artist is available to work on our restoration. He need not rely on photographs and detailed descriptions. He knows everything about us, from the inside out.
Right now, I am in need of some restoration. I don’t know about you, but life has worn on me. There have been hurricanes and tornadoes, people who touch and tear despite signs warning them not to, and time has let my colors fade.
I am tired.
I am ready to lie down right here and let the master artist pick up the brush. I cannot remake myself.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!
from Psalm 51 in The Message