Voice and Vision

One Woman's WORDS AND WORKS •grapple •inspire •liberate

10: Do You have a Soul Friend?

There was a time many years ago when getting out of bed was difficult. Not physically. Spiritually. I’d been concerned about a recent move my husband and I had made for his work to a different region of the US, where we knew no one, and though I’d tried, no art jobs nor exhibiting or art teaching possibilities were available. For an artist, making art is like breathing; we can’t exist without it. Lulled into a malaise, I’d not been sleeping well nor rising early per usual. So I put my running shoes on the footboard of the antique bed in which I slept so they’d be the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes. Eventually, they got me up and out for a walk.

One morning I was roused by an unsolicited thought, an angel message I call it–and I’m not referring to feathery beings, but rather, divine intuition, God-sent messages, ideas that wake or inspire, calling for our immediate attention.  I was “directed” to hunt through our endless bookshelves for a book I’d purchased at an Episcopal retreat years earlier. I found the book! Having just moved, this was a miracle in itself!  Though I’d read the book, Exploring Spiritual Direction: An Essay on Christian Friendship by Alan Jones, at time of purchase, I now opened it and read the preface title as if I’d never read it before, “The Art of Arts”. Just those 4 words woke me to the fact that the highest art is not executing paintings, but companioning with God. Spiritual direction is the term associated with this journey, often through companionship with another, and this, as Jones explains, is the art of arts! Slight chills raced down my back as I instantly understood why this book was calling me, as I was, unknowingly, calling it. I was led to find and visit the right spiritual director–sometimes called a “soul friend”–in this new locale and eventually to go to seminary in New York City, just an hour away–an opportunity that would not have been so conveniently available to me where we lived previously.

I loved being a seminarian student, living in a tiny room with just a bed and a desk, associating with a variety of mostly clergy fellow students in fascinating, challenging Master’s Degree classes taught by brilliant professors, and voraciously reading authors who I consider lifelong friends–Julian of Norwich, Augustine, Teresa of Avila, Francesca de Osuna, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Pseudo-Dionysius, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing and so many more–all dead, but more real and influential than many alive.

Soon I was inspired to create a series of paintings rooted in this experience. Art and life comingle always. And shortly thereafter I opened a gallery where I exhibited my wide range of work and taught classes.

Have you found a soul friend? Someone with whom you can be honest and open?  Someone with whom you can listen–together–to God’s direction? If you do not have a soul friend, a spiritual director (they don’t direct; they divinely listen), continue to read and pray, listening with your whole heart to God, the #1 Soul Friend who is ever-present even in your darkest hours. Sitting in silence, then perhaps going to Psalms is a good place to start. Listen to its many comforting verses, such as these: “Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him of God. But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awakened: for the Lord sustained me.” Psalms 3: 2-5.  You are always in Love’s care. Love leads you with silent footsteps into your perfect path.

Winter Solitude, Shawnee-on-Delaware, watercolor by Gwendolyn Evans

Winter Solitude, Shawnee-on-Delaware, watercolor, 35 1/2″ x 29 1/2″, matted, $775

About the artwork:  This was the backyard of our home in Shawnee-on-Delaware, PA, featuring a big natural waterfall, stream, woods, and our 1700s stone and clapboard home which also housed my gallery, studio, and our B&B. Winter was lovely, quiet, worthy of bundling up to paint outdoors.

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