All THINGS work together…
Depending on what my end goal is when I am creating, the beginning of the process for me has always involved gathering a collection of “things.” In this process it is easy to fall into the trap of starting with the end in mind. Now hear me out, what I am NOT saying is that planning is not important. Planning is very important and is essential to arriving at any desired destination or end. What I AM saying is that in the process of creating there must be room for the unknown, the unforeseen and even the unwelcomed things to contribute. AND this is where my story begins.
The things: The family, the fights, the first
The family that I was raised up in consisted of 3 boys and 3 girls and I am the oldest. Born and raised in Kansas City, my parents (who were never married) split up when I was 2 years old. My momma would eventually move on to marry my brothers’ and sisters’ father. I did not like this man. The pain that this man brought into the picture would eventually become the backdrop for the one thing I believe I was called to do: CREATE SPACE (more on this later). There was a time when it was just my momma and me. I was an only child and in comes this man, this stranger who brought all his things into the picture. He brought his drugs, his alcohol, and his abuse, amongst other things. This is where the fights began. Welcome to the family.
The fights would often take place in a two-bedroom townhome filled with multiple personalities that all seemed to have their own agenda and needs. The fights and arguments were endless. There was always someone yelling about something. As you could imagine, siblings fought over childish things like we were supposed to. I mean, we were kids, what else could you expect, especially in a house of 6 kids trying to do life occupying such a small and restricted space? There was never a quiet moment. But through all the childish fighting and yelling, there was one type of sound that I could never forget. This sound would eventually become the pain from which I would produce and create; the sound of my mother being abused. Through all the noise, I will never forget the first time I heard my mommas’ cries pierce through the sounds of our childish yelling and fighting.
The first time I experienced my momma getting abused, I had to be no older than 8 years of age. The anger that began to build in my heart towards this man along with the fear of losing my momma began to run through my body, creating a rage in my soul, on a road that I would drive for the next 10-12 years of my life. I can remember the sounds of this man beating my momma and hearing her screaming for him to stop. I can remember me feeling helpless as an 8-year-old, angry at myself because I couldn’t help her. I can remember the first time he began to direct that abuse towards me and the thoughts of revenge I would have of one day getting him back when I was older. This abuse and the pain that came from it would produce the THINGS that God would eventually repurpose and use as tools to create what is now known as Cultured.
Cultured is a performing arts-based ministry that uses the arts to create space for youth to creatively process their pain and tell their stories. Although there are many ways that I creatively connect with young people through the arts, at the core of it all, creating space for them to process is what I am called to do. It is what I never received as a child or as a teenager: space to process. Cultured provides this creative space for young people. It is what I love most about the ministry of Cultured, the process of repurposing pain.
Cultured is the paint God gave me to color in the call He placed on my life. It was the pain of my childhood that God through His sovereignty would eventually use and turn it into the paint that I now use to create. One of the things I share with my students when we enter a session is that you can’t have paint without pain.
P-A-I-N-t. Romans 8:28 says that “we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose”. This is the Bible passage that frames my ministry. The key words and phrases in this passage that drive this ministry of creativity are ALL, THINGS, WORK, TOGETHER, THE GOOD, and HIS PURPOSE. All of these words help in the process of creating and in that process, I believe that we find purpose as we allow for God to use all of THE THINGS, repurposing and recalibrating them towards our good. In other words, God uses all of the things to guide us towards an expected end. This “end” is His original intent and purpose.
Earlier I spoke of keeping the end in mind and the importance of planning. Again, I understand the purpose of planning. But in my experiences of creating, I have learned to trust God and to relinquish my control and anxiety of the “end” result. In doing this I find freedom to create with my whole self and not leave anything out in the process. Sometimes keeping the end in mind causes us to unload things at the start line that we think should no longer be there because of the pain and discomfort they caused—not realizing that He might have wanted to use those things as the primary colors for you to paint with. Things that would eventually fill in the call and plans designed in the beginning, for your life.
There are many things that we go through in life and some of those things we try so hard to forget and throw them away, far from our memories. With that being said, here is my challenge to you. I know that this is easier said than done but I want to challenge you to allow for God to repurpose the experiences and the pain so that you might be able to one day use ALL THINGS to paint.
Now go, CREATE SPACE! For yourself and the world around you. LET’S PAINT!