Peacemaker Congress: Drawing Our Lives

by Brian Young, CPT Steering Committee

Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana steps to the podium to bring the message on the second day of CPT’s 25th Anniversary Peacemaker Congress in Chicago.  As he begins, Pastor Shawna Bowman kneels before a blank black page taped to the floor and starts to draw a border.  My eyes leave her for a time, engaged in Dr. Shanta’s words.

Theology, he reminds us, is not an abstraction.  It cannot be.  And we help determine the context in which each of our theologies will develop by the simple act of choosing:  who will be at table with you today?

Dr. Shanta recalls for us that the people at the margins are seldom invited to the tables of folks like me.  Perhaps it is the sting of that truth; I don’t know.  But at that moment my eyes revert to Rev. Shawna’s drawing.  It seems somehow safer.

My line of sight is drawn by Rev. Shawna’s actions to the far right side of her work.  There are figures running up the page, perpendicular to the floor.  As I look at her hands, I am captivated – she is literally drawing on the margins Dr. Shanta is describing.  While he invites us to notice who is absent from the table, Rev. Shawna is drawing – curling, whirling, swirling black on black strokes – there, on the margins, on the margins of the page as in the margins of our lives; there, God is still speaking.

As Dr. Shanta continues to speak of the margin space, Shawna adds more whirls and swirls, but now in vivid color.  Suddenly, the margins are alive, the place where movement is happening.  It’s been there all along.

And the age-old invitation comes back: Let them with eyes to see, see.

I am so grateful for the eyes of Rev. Shawna and Dr. Shanta and so many, many, others living out there at the margins – living and dancing and bringing life-giving color to those like me in the comfortable middle of things – that space where colors fade into complacency.