What is an artist? What is art for that matter? I guess I never considered myself to be an artist because whenever I think of art, I think of paint and a canvas. But the definition of art doesn’t end with painters. Webster’s dictionary defines art as the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects. So within that definition, I am an artist and the words I write are art.
I recently read Pursing Christ, Creating Art by Gary Molander; and it was quite possibly one the most challenging but insightful and encouraging books I’ve ever read. This book described who I am in ways that I never realized.
I am an artist.
I experience higher highs than non-artists. I throw parties when an ingrown toenail experiences healing.
I experience lower lows than non-artists. I can lie helpless in the fetal position when I experience an ingrown toenail.
I live in heaven or hell. There is no Hades.
I am deeply introspective and overly self-critical.
I want you tell me the truth about my art.
I wish you wouldn’t tell me the truth about my art.
I live one-step on the other side of the line, and stick my big toe over with too much regularity.
I need authority, and I struggle with authority. And I don’t really think I need authority.
I have a much better way, and I have no idea what that is.
I am naturally unorganized, but I’ve forced myself to become more organized. I’ve done this in the name of self-preservation.
I love Jesus with all my heart and all my soul.
I honestly believe that beautiful art can change the world.
I can’t wait to create some new thing.
The book begins with this description of an artist. It’s as if the author stepped into my head and pulled out all of my unrealized characteristics. Weird.
I experience higher highs and lower lows than non-artists. This one sentence makes so much sense of so much of my life that didn’t make sense before. For most of my life, I’ve felt as if my emotions were excessive, as if I got sadder about things and happier about things that “normal” people would. This fact has often frustrated me and made me feel as if I didn’t belong. As I came to have a relationship with Christ, I have accepted this “quirk” about myself and that I am probably just a bit more emotional than many people. I have come to be okay with that. But now, it seems to run much, MUCH, deeper than that.
Because I have higher highs and lower lows than non-artists, I live in either Heaven or hell experiences. There is very little, if any, in between when it comes to my emotional state. I’m an all or none kind of person.
As an artist, I will always react to difficult situations with more grief and sadness than most people. But the opposite is true, too. The smallest success or idea that allows me even the dimmest glimmer of hope will always cause me extreme joy. And I need to stop crucifying myself because of this. I need to stop trying to hide it…Make no mistake about it. The best art is borne in the joy of heaven, or the pain of hell. God-fearing artists will experience both, and God will beautifully interact with them in both places…So while artists need to stop living and dying based on every whim of our emotions, we also need to come to grips with the fact that, for many of our tribe, we will always exhibit high highs, and low lows. And when we place our ordinary lives on the daily altar as living sacrifices, we need to make sure and place this tendency on the altar as well, for God to mold and transform as He sees fit.
I can’t create art from an “in between” emotional state – it just doesn’t work. “In between” art isn’t moving, it doesn’t change lives, it doesn’t draw out emotion. But because I have so much emotion, positive or negative, running through me at any given time – I NEED to create art. God gave me the gift of being able to write and when I don’t write, which is the only way for me to REALLY get my thoughts and feelings out of my head, I notice that I begin to get distant from God. In other words: I don’t need to create art for God. He doesn’t need it. I need to create art in response to God.
I create art in response to what God has done for me.
He did something first, and we are now able to go and do something that looks and smells a lot like what He’s already given to us. We create art because He first created art. And the art He first created is you. It’s me. It’s anyone who has been made alive with Christ.
I am a work of art who is creating art. I need to stop procrastinating. God created me, He knows how I function. He knows that I have natural bent towards writing, He put it there. So when I get distant from writing, I get distant from God. I write many of my prayers simply because speaking them doesn’t allow me to get out my feelings and thoughts the way writing does. But oftentimes, I put off writing because I afraid that I will fail. I’m afraid that whatever makes it to the paper won’t meet my own expectations. Which it rarely does; I have high expectations for my own work. The reason why I procrastinate and the avoid sharing my art with other people: fear and pride. And God is working on crucifying those things in me. I’ve come to a place in my life where I don’t have to listen to the voices that say my art is no good and that as a result, I am no good. I don’t have to be afraid of how my art will be received. God already has a plan for my life and for my art and He knows who needs to see, read, or hear it and who will be moved by. God is in charge of that.
So in response to what God has done for me, I create. I write. I share emotion. I pour a part of my very soul into my writing and I am honored that God would give me this gift that can make even the slightest difference within His Kingdom. If God says that my art is good enough, who am I to disagree? If God gave me the artistic bent that I have, who am I to tell Him that I don’t need to use it?