What art teaches me about God, part two

So here’s the thing, there are different types of artists, just like there are different types of people. There are many successful artists who sit down and plan things out before they ever put the brush to the canvas. There are authors who write outlines before they type a single word of their story. Epic masterpieces are crafted painstakingly, one precious detail at a time.

That’s amazing. I am not that kind of artist. Usually, when I sit down with a new project, I have no earthly idea where the process is going to take me. Typically (hopefully) I have some sort of color scheme, medium, or format in mind. But that is about it. 

My approach to art, just like my approach to life, usually involves launching myself off the cliff and hoping to swan dive instead of bellyflop. Which one is free to do when your goal is the process and not the end result. Often times, I’m satisfied if I just end up with a decent looking cannonball. 

It is always an option to paint over canvas. To crumple up a sketch and pitch it in the trashcan.  To highlight an entire blog post and simply hit delete. It seems like a waste of time and effort. 

But what if your goal is the act of doing and not the end result? 

Then was it wasted effort?

When I am making something, I often feel discouraged. In the times when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I force myself to ask some questions:  

In the process of doing this, did I learn anything? Did I try anything new? Was there something I hated? Something I want to try to do differently next time? Am I any closer to figuring out what I am hoping the end product will be?  

Sometimes I force myself to press through and finish the piece I want to abandon. Usually, at the end, I still hate it. But sometimes I don’t. 

I wish, I WISH, that this attitude came as naturally to me when it came to living my life. Why is it that we’re all programmed to believe that life is supposed to be about achieving goals, instead of working towards them? Why do we always believe that our problems will magically disappear once (fill in the blank) happens?

 I always find it disconcerting when I achieve something I’ve really been working towards and then I realize that the next day is Thursday. Just another day. The world keeps spinning, life doesn’t stop. I did something – I achieved something great. But time still marches on. 

I’ll never forget the day I left the hospital with my newborn daughter. I felt like there should be a parade in front of us as we took her home. Sitting at a stoplight, I looked at the cars next to me and expected to see them giving me goofy grins and thumbs up. But, I quickly realized that for those drivers, this was just a Friday morning. They were talking on their phones, putting on mascara, eating egg McMuffin’s. 

Didn’t they realize that this was a banner day? Didn’t they understand that things would never be the same?
Of course they didn’t. Because it was truly, just a Friday. And our life is a succession of Fridays. We live life focused so intensely looking forward to our goals that we forget that the majority of our time is spent in the in between. That waiting is how we spend most of our lives. And that that waiting, the process of getting there, has value. God did not create us to have a handful of magical moments surrounded by acres of empty time. 

In fact most of our growth, spiritual and otherwise, happens in the in between. It is then that we learn to work. That we are forced to try new things and to look at the world in different ways. It is in the waiting that we have no choice but to rely on God. To see that the trajectory of our lives isn’t as much in our control as we would like to believe. This is when we grow. This is when we are formed into Christ’s likeness. 

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up.”

2 Corinthians 3:18-4:1

And if we swing and miss in life, if we fail, that can be just as valuable. What if I asked myself the same questions and times of discouragement as I do when I feel stuck and the artistic process?

In the process of doing this, did I learn anything? Did I try anything new? Was there something I hated? Something I want to try to do differently next time? Am I any closer to figuring out what I am hoping the end product will be?  

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Hide it under a bushel? No!

Hello.  My name is Marissa, and I have God-given talents.  That’s easy enough to say.  After all, I am throwing God in there, so it seems spiritual, right?  But owning my talents, being confident enough in them to be willing to use them and share them with the world?  That is a much harder prospect for me.

Hi.  I’m Marissa and I am an artist.  Harder to say.
Hi.  I’m Marissa and I am a good singer.  Still Harder.
Hi.  I’m Marissa and I love to write.  Terrifying.

Why? Why am I so scared to share the things I love to do with the world?  Well, it makes me feel vulnerable.  Although I love art, I am certainly not the best artist in the world.  Not even the best artist I know.  Same with singing.  And writing- I feel silly even attempting a blog when there are brilliant women out there like Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist who are saying the things I want to say more eloquently and to more people than I could ever dream.  My fears of not being the best- let’s be honest- of not being deemed passable or even adequate, have kept me hiding my light under a bushel.  My writing was confined to my journals, which even I was afraid to go back and read.  My art was kept as doodles, scrapped and thrown away before it was shared.  Or labeled as ‘crafts’ which seemed more acceptable.  My singing was limited to my car- even my shower seemed to public a venue.

But still, these were things I loved to do.  And as I did them, I realized that I felt more connected to God.  Even though I had never heard these disciplines spoken about from the pulpit, or written about in books on spiritual discipline, my soul sensed that these for me were avenues to my father.  And slowly (probably too slowly) God started calling me to take risks with them- to let others see.  It started with my art, a few years ago.  Then, over this summer, I led worship for the first time.  Then, a few months ago, I *gulp* started this blog.  And guess what?

The world did not end.

No one threw a rotten tomato at me, or even giggled at my untrained technique.

I had fun.

I got a bit more confident.  And a LOT more brave.

God has given us each gifts.  Ones that we use as a calling and vocation, and others that we use for joy, and to glorify God.  We live in a culture of perfection, we are surrounded constantly by images and videos of people at the top of their field.  I I think that seeing these virtuoso’s can make us afraid to develop our talent, to feel that it is paltry or insufficient in contrast.  But the thing is, only one person can be the best at something.   There is only one doctor in the world who is the best at removing a gallbladder.  But thinking that this means that he (or she) is the only person who should perform the procedure is preposterous.  Just as we need many doctors, the world also needs many artists.  Many writers.  Many runners and dreamers, and cooks, and inventors.

What do you love?  Are you cultivating a discipline of doing that thing on a regular basis?  Both for God’s glory and for your sheer joy of it?  If not, what is holding you back? I challenge you today, clear some time and go for it.  See what blessing you may gain from taking the risk….