The “Sacred Messiness of Life”

by Rev. Donna Belt

May 2009

Rev. Donna Belt

In a recent workshop, I joined participants in creating what I called “Intuitive Paintings of Source”.  I encouraged them to breathe deeply, sensing into their bodies to discover the presence of the divine that rested there, beyond the doubts and surface turbulence. Then I invited them to follow the lead of their paintbrushes, simply observing what colors and shapes arose.

As everyone finished their paintings, we lined them up on the wall so that we could reflect as a group on what had come forward for each of us. Quickly, I noticed that amidst a grouping of spiraling, rainbowed creations that offered promise of orderly evolution, my impressions seemed much more chaotic. My painting seems to be steeped in fractures where life force drains away. Yet flowering and promise also spring from those hectic areas where things fall apart.

I’ve discovered new sides of myself by surrendering to the place of not knowing. “It is precisely when we become strangers to ourselves, and then love the stranger as our self, that we have the greatest potential for self (or selves) discovery” (p. 32, Rabbi Irwin Kula, Yearnings, the Sacred Messiness of Life).  It is through our letting go and reclaiming all the conflicting truths of whom  we are that the grand design evolves.

Artwork by Rev. Donna Belt

Rabbi Kula urges us to find meaning in “…the sacred messiness; when we can experience, even just for fleeting moments, the fragility of creation and the necessity of chaos” (p. 83). This has become the focus of my journey as a minister and daughter of a terminally ill mother, to understand faith as a dialectic between my very human feelings of loss and the expansion that occurs as I open more deeply to the eternal.

My relationship with emotions of grief and fear—whether others’ or my own—has changed. I realize that I used to see those feelings as something to be resolved so that I could move on to the meaning-making. Now I see them as gifts of opening and flow.

Tears and laughter are the concoction that best express where I find myself at this time in my life. To embrace them is to surrender to the treasures that I often missed in my hurry to deify order.

I know these things to be true: I am terrified, and yet I am a courageous warrior. I am self-absorbed in my loss, yet more open and understanding of others. I hurt, but I find breathing room in the dark. I have lost my certainty, but gained greater ability to navigate the mystery.

The divine is sinking deep roots within me. With each crack in my foundation, the flowering on the surface becomes more riotous. And God sees that it is good.


Rabbi Irwin Kula and Linda Loewenthal, Yearnings, the Sacred Messiness of Life (Hyperion, 2007).