I only discovered a few years ago that I am a visual learner.
I was sat at a conference scribbling notes when the woman next to me leaned over and said ‘so you’re a visual learner then.’ She was right, I am, but until then I hadn’t realised it. Having been told my whole life that I was solely academic and having been denied the opportunity to do art GCSE because ‘we need to give less bright children a chance’ it had not occurred to me that I am primarily a visual person.
Here I am now as an adult, a newly discovered visual learner and I have no drawing skills to help me express it. That’s why a colouring book is great for someone like me. I don’t have to tangle with the frustrations of something not looking how I intended but instead can immerse myself in filling out the image as I meditate and process.
Stu McLellan’s The Heavens and the Earth with its variety of landscapes, portraits, close detail and broad strokes has been a revelation in those moments that I have been able to find time to sit, reflect and listen. The opportunity to colour in people, trees, animals, buildings whilst allowing the Bible verses to take root in my heart has been a welcome one. Similarly it has been a good tool to help my visually focussed mind build associations and express itself as I listen to music and sermons, while I have prayed and also whilst thinking about what’s happening at work.
The great thing about adult colouring books is knowing that it’s not just me that benefits from them. I work for a church in the Chilterns that has a lot of busy city professionals coming through its doors. We always have child orientated bible-based colouring sheets on the tables of our family café service and every week without fail I see an adult sat colouring in as well. Whenever I speak to them the sentiment is always the same – ‘Colouring is just a nice way to unwind, I never get to colour anymore.’
For many of them the opportunity to do something that they do not need to think hard about but rather washes over them is like a having five minutes to escape to some distant island or secret space, one with no mortgages or chores.
I have already started to encourage people to look out for colouring books for adults, especially those that are scripturally based.
As we continue to draw new families into our seeker-friendly service I imagine that it will become a gentle but effective way in which we can introduce people to prayer and reflection in a Christian context.
Luke Maxted is a Children and Families’ Worker