Drawing inside the Bible? Coloring, painting, stamping, taping inside the Bible? What is this new trend, and isn’t it rather… Blasphemous? Sacrilegious? A violation of the Holy Word?
We have only to look back at the illuminated texts of the early and Middle Ages Church such as the first century Book of Kells to realize that this is hardly a new trend, though it may be considered a fad for and by some in this latest occurrence.
What is the purpose then, and how do we practice what is currently being called “Bible Journaling” without it becoming a scandalous violation of God’s Word?
The purpose of Bible Journaling is to provide believers who are visual and kinesthetic learners with a means of responding to Scripture in a way that actively encourages meditating on verses and truths and stimulates genuine worship as the mediums used are ones that most speak to the believers’ souls and how they are most likely able to express their responses to God’s presence and truth if given the freedom to do so.
Let’s start with the active meditation. By surrounding oneself with someone else’s Scripture artwork like that done by Hopeink or others, one has opportunities throughout each day to reflect on God’s Word, to be refreshed by it or instructed by God through it. However, the opportunities for God to work through Scripture really increase when you trace out the words. Numerous studies (like this one or this) have shown how writing longhand and even drawing can improve one’s memory of content. Whatever your preferred method (pencil first and then colors, colors right away, or coloring someone else’s drawn outlines, etc.), you’re ingraining the very words of God into your memory as you write out verses. Add the visual(s) that the Holy Spirit gives you as you mull over the words, and you have the next important part of Bible Journaling: active worship.
God makes it abundantly clear that His followers are to use their abilities to bring glory to Him. Thank goodness Christian artists like those in the Anselm Society have persisted in using their artwork to communicate how God is at work in their lives- something that is different in each of us because we are each uniquely made by an artistic God. Making art with Scripture and in response to Scripture is another way of demonstrating how “… the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Artistic responses are us responding to the creativity of our Creator using one of the ways He reveals Himself to us: the beauty, color, and life in the world.
But, to do this right within one’s copy of the Bible? Wouldn’t that be right up there with the monks who drew mice and cats instead of holy objects in their illuminations?
The last thing I want to encourage is using the Bible as one’s personal coloring book (which can be easy to think is what people are doing when you see Bible editions like the Inspire Bible, but that was not the publisher’s intention). That would indeed be treating sacred texts as unholy and with disrespect. Check your heart: are you wanting to respond to God’s Word in a way that He speaks to you- through art? And are you wanting to be able to return to the art in its context of the Scripture that inspired it so you can be re-inspired, re-instructed, gain new insight?
The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling, from which the above images comes, has several useful suggestions. First, find a Bible with wide margins where your notes and art will fit. That way your art does not flow over the actual text. Second, you can use vellum and washi tape- vellum for your art and washi tape to fit your art to the Bible page without damaging either. Third, create your artistic responses in a sketchbook or other mediums that you can keep close to your Bible or display around your home.
What I personally have begun doing is a combination of a few. I use the Inspire Bible, coloring in the verses that the publisher has added to some of the margins, and reflecting on the words as I read and color them, asking God to teach me what He wants me to know and use in my life.
I also use the margins to write notes, not to add to the Scripture, but to illuminate and make them more comprehensible to myself.
Then, I use my sketchbook to create an artistic response.
Bible Journaling is likely enough a current fad in the Church, and I don’t know how long it will last, but the fact that it may be a fad does not mean it isn’t a meaningful tool to use in deepening one’s devotional time with God, as you meditate and create worshipful responses to His Word as He speaks and teaches through it.
Grace and Peace,
Featured Image from Inspire Bible NLT: The Bible for Creative Journaling. Coloring my own.
Image of Christ enthroned from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com. Accessed May 24, 2017.
Scripture text taken from https://www.blueletterbible.org/. Accessed May 24, 2017.