Thursday, June 19, 2014

Coming Out : I art journal in the Bible.

This post is part of a series on spirituality and coming out. You can read the rest here.


I thought I was done with these posts. I thought I had released everything I needed to in order to live openly in my spiritual identity. But it turns out there was one more thing: I art journal in the Bible.

I got the idea from my friend Jamie, who bravely and openly does found poetry using the Bible. I loved the sound of that and suddenly had an urge to try blackout poetry in the Bible, something I had just begun to experiment with. But honestly, doing it in the Bible sounded a little crazy and kind of sacrilegious. Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't.  

I was mulling it over a few days later when a Jehovah's Witness came to my door. They come regularly and ask all sorts of questions, but for some reason the woman that knocked this time was especially concerned about whether I used my Bible. At the end, as she walked away from my doorstep, she turned and said one last time, "Use your Bible!" 

After that, it was a done deal. I started the next week and have now done dozens of pages. I collage and watercolor and paint and write and draw and do blackout poetry. I process all sorts of things, spiritual and otherwise, in a safer, more abstract way than I can with writing alone. It has been a completely cathartic experience for me all the way through, something I look forward to, my own little form of doubter's art therapy.

I once treasured the Bible. It was my air, my water, my manna from heaven. Then things got really complicated really quickly. Soon my water was drowning instead of nourishing me. But I kept diving back in again and again and again, begging the water to heal me even as it killed me. Finally, one day I came out of the water and didn't get back in.

But now I am returning to the Bible in a wholly unexpected way, one that is much more healthy for me. I am not forcing it to solve all my problems or answer all my questions or magically make me someone I am not. I'm just letting it exist and be what it is and letting myself do the same in its pages. I'm finding this is healing old wounds.

I don't mean to offend. I don't want to desecrate something that is holy to you and I really don't want to trivialize the importance of scripture in your personal spiritual journey. 

But I also don't want to live in fear and shame. I don't want to go out of my way to keep secret something that has been so positive for me. I don't want to talk a big talk with my friends about living out loud and then deliberately hide any proof of my passions before the guests come over. I don't want to take a picture of what I am learning and then remember I can't share it because the truth of my spiritual journey might be offensive.

There is plenty in my life to keep secret. I have lots of opinions on lots of things that I don't feel the need to make public. But shame is not a good reason for keeping secrets.

This crazy, heretical thing that I'm doing, this art journaling in the Bible, I am not done with it yet. I'm just at the end of Exodus now and my commitment to this peculiar spiritual practice of mine is only growing. I've never been much of a visual artist, so my pages are rarely beautiful or even aesthetically pleasing. But the mess-making and truth-telling and meaning-finding and Self-being happening in those pages? On my best days, it's really something to be proud of.   


  1. Alissa, this makes my heart giddy with wonder. Thank you for sharing. For what it's worth, with technology that way it is, and having scripture at our fingertips, at the tap of a screen - I think this is such a creative and fresh way of 'using the bible', of engaging with it, letting it speak to us, wrestling with it. The 'word of God' is no longer just that tangible book we toted so carefully to and from church every week - having an actual bible in it's entirety I would say is becoming less common as we move more from print to screen. So I don't think what you are doing is sacrilegious any more than writing in the margins or underlining would be. Scripture is accessible at any time and place more than ever before.

    Though I wonder what the JW lady would say if she knew this is how you were using your bible - maybe you should show her, that would make an interesting story, haha!

    1. haha I wonder... Thanks Bree. I really appreciate your perspective. <3

  2. Eeeeee!!!! i am finally getting to see this!! LOVE it. and you XO (you make me brave)

  3. I LOVE THIS!! I have started art journaling in my bible recently too! PLEASE keep sharing your creations!!