Something was wrong, and I knew it. When I looked at what I had done, something annoyed me, and it took me some time to realise what it was.

I had been working on a piece of artwork called "Secret Place" which depicts a room, perhaps a study, where someone goes to meet with God. In the room is a desk, lit by a desk lamp, and on the desk is an open Bible.

Here is a mockup of the image (created in the excellent and free Google Sketchup 8:

But something looked wrong. After some time, the light dawned. The chair was in the wrong position. But why? I thought of our normal daily habits. When a table is not in use, the chairs are often pushed under it, as shown above. So the table in the image, used to spend time with God, was not in use. But the Bible was open, the light was on, creating a sense of waiting or expectancy, but the chair was pushed in. So the image was sending me conflicting signals, and that was why it looked "wrong".

So could I change something to make it look "right"? Well, we could close the book and switch the lamp off, but I didn't want to do that. How about the chair? As soon as I moved the chair to the position below, the image looked "right". Here's another mockup:

So now the chair is waiting too - waiting to be sat on, by you or me, the viewer.

I realised quickly there was something deeper going on here. It wasn't just a creative exercise. It seemed like God was trying to reveal something to me. God, the unseen presence in the image, was waiting. Waiting for my company. Waiting to reveal himself to me, to speak to me.

So where are you or I in this image? Have we just left? Have we yet to arrive? Has it been a long time? The image does not answer those questions for us, but rather leaves us to write the story, and in writing it, something of our own journey is revealed to us. Here is the final image at full quality:

Incidentally, artists down the centuries have used these techniques to draw the viewer in, and make him or her an active participant in the scene. Think of Rublev's famous 14th Century icon of the Trinity:

There is a space at the front of the image, an empty place at the table. The viewer is invited to step in, and join in the fellowship of the Trinity.

It is this deliberate intertwining of the creative process and the spiritual journey that can be so revealing. Each informs, challenges, and reveals the other. Using creative arts in this way can so easily bypass our cerebral, logical minds with their fixed thought patterns and well-built defences, and help us access our deeper layers. It can help us see situations in a new way, and present us with new options for moving forward. For this reason, I believe there is great potential to use these techniques to help us move past the blockages to inner healing and growth.

I like to think of it as a creative conversation between the creative and the spiritual. They are distinct, yet deeply connected. Sometimes the conversation begins with a creative idea, which reveals a spiritual insight or question as I develop it. Sometimes it's something in my spiritual journey that sparks a creative idea. And then the conversation starts. Sometimes when confronted with something in my own journey, or when asked to create visuals for a worship event and so on, I ask God "what does this look like?" and that sets the conversation going.

How might this conversation between creativity and spirituality begin in your usual creative medium?

Interestingly, the chair theme returned some time later, when I asked God what he felt when I walked away from the place of fellowship with him - the following image came to mind. I leave it to you to write the story.

How Can You Engage With This? is all about equipping God's people to worship and spread the good news. So I'd encourage you to have a go, both in your own journey, but also as you consider how to help others engage with God.

You can create images or scenes in any medium. My canvas is the computer, but maybe you prefer a sketchpad or an oil canvas, or sculpture, or dance or drama. One approach is to create different versions of a scene and explore why some versions seem to "click" and others might seem wrong, annoy or offend, and then prayerfully explore what is revealed as you explore the reasons why.
Why not try this with a group of people, perhaps your home group, or worship team, or on a retreat? How can you use creative techniques to draw the viewer in, to encourage them to supply the story?
It's likely that some of you will want to try out the 3D artwork for yourself. If you want to try the Google Sketchup technique, you can download it free from Google (yes it's a really great bit of free software: I've also provided the chair scene that you can load into Sketchup (version 8) and play around with - log in or sign up and you can download it from the box above.

There is so much potential in digital art technology - I have only scratched the surface here. What other ways can you find and share with others?

In the second part of this article, I'll explore some more ways in which digital arts and our spiritual journey can be woven together, touching on how we might use these techniques in inner healing.