we each hear in our own language (Acts 2.8, Pentecost 2020)

How do I hear the Holy Spirit speak to me?  In soughing grass, in crashing wave, in a child’s cry, in an elder’s laugh?  In sunlight on my lifted face, in moonlight on my crumpled bed? In an urgent prod that begins in my gut and lies heavy on my solar plexus?  In another’s singing, in a poet’s image, in a ghostly whisper in my ear?

How about this: I hear the Holy Spirit speak to me in colour.

In the summer holidays of 2018 Creative Response encouraged my art group to work separately, but together, on #projectyellow.  Yellow was chosen because most of the group agreed it was a ‘happy’ colour, therefore it was a ‘safe’ colour for us whose fragile mental health needs nurturing care, especially during the prolonged period when the group would not be meeting.  I was blasé about the colour choice, sun and flowers sprung to mind and I was ok enough about that.   My initial reaction was I didn’t particularly like it, and didn’t choose to have much of it around me on a daily basis, but I would play with the project and use it to pray for the others in the group as I went.  I thought that was that. However, my curiosity began to kick in on the journey home from the last group session of the summer term.  Immediately on entering my flat I picked up a camera and, as an opening exercise, tried to see whether I had any yellow in my home surroundings.  It turns out there was A LOT of it about and I had not consciously perceived it before.

As I began concentrating and focussing on yellow in all its diverse shades, hues and textures, I became aware that I was getting very angry.  In fact I was becoming livd, brimming with bewildering rage of a staggering intensity.

When I took this experience to my counsellor a few days later, she led me through some word association work on the colour red.  By visualising my rapid-fire responses to its shades, hues and textures we began to see a way in which I might (just might) be able to bypass my over-active intellectual mind, and key into developing my subconscious emotional vocabulary by  concentrating on colour.

The subsequent eight week exploration into #projectyellow was difficult to say the least.  Living livid is exhausting.  I produced an awful lot of work in a wide variety of media, and although that was hugely gruelling, some part of me was aware the process was being fruitful, useful, enlightening.  For example, I stumbled over my associations between yellow and Easter, I rejected an image of God as wholly yellow, and heard my inner snob dismiss yellow as a ‘simple’, ‘too easy’ colour.

It was almost impossible to see the Glory in yellow; and for the duration of #projectyellow the Holy Spirit was mute about joy but clearly loud about anger.  Recalibrating my emotional trigger rage response to yellow is an ongoing road, but at least I can now see it freely enough to acknowledge that yellow, like any colour, is a source pure possibility, complexity and mystery.  One concrete change the project brought is that I can use yellow more freely in my painting than I did in 2018 and the wonderful work of the artist Marjolijn Thie-ter Beek has been an important part of this rebalancing appreciation journey.   

All this means I have adopted the approach of concentrating on a single colour to focus on what my emotional, spiritual, mental and physical connections with it might be. So last November, when I came out of hospital, I began #projectgrey and despite poor health this winter the Spirit enabled me to spend hours exploring its subtleties (mostly from my bed): through collage, paint, poetry, photography and journalling.

This journey drew to a natural close at the end of April and almost seamlessly transfigured into the small beginnings of #projectgreen. 

As I gaze through the lushness outside my window, I return to seeing the disciples in the dusty, baked stone upper room, in a hot city packed with religious from ‘all the nations under heaven.  I see each disciple hearing the Spirit differently, each receiving ‘as the Spirit gave them ability’, each astonishing themselves by what begins to pour from their mouths.  I see them flinging wide the shutters and streaming out of the doors with such passion, catching the attention of the tourists with their energetic performances, amazing each passerby hearing a particular, specific message through a voice pitched just for their ears…  

However much my inner artist hankers to develop her ‘voice’, honing it until she has a distinctive, instantly recognisable style, it is not in her gift: my voice can only arise out of my hearing. 

It is the Spirit who speaks to me in a unique way, in a voice created especially for me to hear. 

It is the Spirit who gives me the means by which I may make a unique response to God’s calling forth. 

It is the Spirit who gives me the nudge to leave my place of fear and security, insisting that the world needs to hear what the Spirit says through me, and you, and you, and you… 

Hearing the Spirit speak ‘my’ language is the way God asks me directly to contribute to building ‘our’ Kingdom community.

Let those who have ears to hear, listen.

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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