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I really do believe that kids can communicate with Jesus, and vice versa, through art

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Bella Bonanno"Maybe the same way that God makes things grow out of our wounds, he'll make things grow out this big wound we're all living through."

Every week, I get to open the Bible with high school and middle school students. Recently, we have been learning the practice of visio divina together. In visio, practitioners pair scripture with an image (often an icon or a piece of spiritual art), and not unlike in the process of lectio divina, one looks at the image as they read the same passage three times, they pause, listen for something specific, and reflect. In visio, the only major difference is that oftentimes what one might hear or reflect on, is found in the image and not only the words of scripture.

We live in a very image-driven culture currently, and I think because of that, adolescents are very visually inclined. Part of my motivation in introducing my high school friends to visio is selfish­–I love spiritual art–and the other part of it is strategic. I really do believe that kids can communicate with Jesus, and vice versa, through art. So, we have been intentionally easing our way into these sorts of practices.

This past week, my high school friends and I reflected on a piece of spiritual art that was created by Scott Erickson. The image has a tree growing out of a hand that is facing palm up, with a wound in the middle of it. We paired this image with 2 Corinthians 5:17, which reads:

"So, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (NRSV)

Adolescents constantly surprise me with their profundity and insights, and as we practiced visio this past week, I was not disappointed. Out of Scott's art piece and the verse in Corinthians came conversation about pain, healing, growth, new life and hope. I was struck by the aches and wounds that my high school friends confessed in our discussion. They spoke of loss, of both experiences and people. And they admitted to not only feeling the continued impacts of these losses, but also continuing to experience those losses. My young friends are living in a very different world than any of us ever expected to live in. And it hurts.

I think as followers of Jesus we sometimes romanticize becoming new creations and living out a new creation story. But there are times when it is not what we imagine. There are times when it is painful, and it hurts. Becoming something new isn't always fun, it doesn't always feel good. Living through something new is much the same.

As we reflected on the image of the tree growing out of the wounded palm, my friends kept bringing the identity of the pain back to themselves. They saw the reality that Jesus' hand was wounded, but as they looked on the image, they saw their own hands illustrated there, their own pain in the picture.

We've all been wounded–individually and together. But I think in the same way that the high schoolers found comfort in the reality that new things are painful when you lay spiritual meaning on top of them, or even lamentation, we too can find such comfort. Reflect on your own wounded palm. See the pain of what you may have lost? See the ache of over a year of this new thing? Look! Look, at how much it hurts.

And then take heart! For what if what one of my young friends said is true? What if just as God can make something new out of our pain, he can make something new out of this big pain we have all been experiencing? What if the new thing happening does hurt, but what if we can recognize the goodness in it too?

Bella Bonanno is the area director for Crook County Young Life. She can be reached at 541-325-9862.

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