It’s a little embarrassing that my newest favorite painting includes a swear word… but I’ve made a commitment to myself to be authentic about my spiritual experiences. So, when this painting was born, the true words went on it.

Here’s what happened: I’d been attempting for about two months to paint something Real about what it feels like to be open to the movement of God in my life. I found a rich quote from the German poet RM Rilke and wanted to illustrate it: “Inside human beings is where God learns.” Fantastic. Except, it didn’t work. I tried two different paintings– they were fine, but didn’t come close to the itchy inspiration and daunting challenges I felt in my gut and heart.

I became more and more frustrated; desperate to make something happen and to find some creative relief! My therapist encouraged me to paint what scares me. Another failed attempt. Finally, I threw open my journal one morning and began to yell at God in words. (We write back & forth and even fight sometimes– it’s a pretty great way to pray, actually.) I complained, begged, told my story, tried to escape. Then I let the swearing out: I wrote, “Damn” in big letters. Felt great. And then– because underneath it all I completely adore God and my life, and because I am always grateful at the end for even the hard stuff– I added, “I mean, thank You.”

At that moment, it clicked. I laughed and suddenly got the insight, the joke, the metaphor. I knew that this was the painting I’d been looking for– this was the way to say how wonderful & hard & gorgeous & crazy the spiritual life is: “Damn. I mean, thank You.” Damn, because it IS this hard, irritating, or even wrenching. I mean, thank You because reframing my frustrations into gratitude changes everything and opens me up to astonishing new possibilities. Being glad for the challenges makes them into gifts.

For three days straight I worked on this painting. It’s a large one, 22×30 inches, and it’s covered in text and doodles and color to represent all the texture and pain and beauty of life and living out loud. It started as a scrap paper with messy drips on it, but as in life, the accidents and messes can be transformed into art when covered with Grace. Damn. I mean, thank You.

I hope you can see some of the detail and text, but the best way to experience this image is in person or as an art print. The 11×14 digital art prints are beautiful and clear, and the new full-size gicleé prints are astonishing. Let me know if you’d like to bring one of these reminders into your home or as a gift to someone you love.


See I Mean Thank You art and details.  Art print available.

© Melanie Weidner 2008