Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where I Attempt to Fortify You (and Me)

So this is what you have to do. First you have to know that you are meant to do this thing that some would call work, but you will always call art. Maybe it is dancing. Or singing. Writing, teaching, mothering, ministry, what you love to do. You know it requires work, but the feeling you have after putting your whole self into it is more than work. It is joy. It is freedom. It is song. It is calling and purpose. You know this is what you are good at, but you also know you need all the help you can get. There is a mixed pride and humility, a confidence in all that God is doing through what He has gifted you for. It is immeasurably fulfilling. You must keep this assurance close to you, wear it like clothing, ingest it like medicine, digest it like nutrient-rich sustenance, for it will carry you through those nights where you lay awake, full of God-doubt and self-doubt and art-doubt. You must tattoo on your soul that we are not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.

Power. The ability to create, to transcend, to inspire, to speak straight to the heart of something. To heal, to mend and bind, to change.

Love. For your audience. For your judges. For your enemies. The ability to see the person, to love the person, to know the beauty this person is undoubtedly endowed with and will hopefully and ideally master someday.

A sound mind. Confidence. Creativity. Trust. The ability to walk surely and securely through previously uninhabited territories of your own soul, the hope that all Truth will come true in your life, responding with assurance to those who would lead you astray. Discernment.

Then you must be brave. You must fully realize that if God is for you, then who can be against you? You must understand that not all people will love your art, that some will hate it, and some will think it mediocre or not even care at all. That's okay. You must not allow people to validate you, Artist. You have to strengthen yourself with the certainty that this is the path you were born to walk, that you will make a ton of mistakes, and that anyone who chooses to circle you like prey and kick at you with steel-toed shoes, and jeer and laugh is not your friend. You must shake them off. Shake these poisonous relationships off, forgive them, and walk on.

Find your people. God will provide them. Your people consist of anyone who is willing to be on your cheering squad, anyone who will pray for you, hear your heart, root you on, encourage you, and speak the truth in love to you. It is your human support system. These people will be well-equipped to speak into your life in many different ways. Some of them will take action. Understand that no one person will be equipped to provide everything you need. That can only come from One, and that can only come from faith. It is a crucial ingredient to understand that in some ways you will feel alone, alienated, cursed to walk a quiet path. It isn't true. People aren't meant to fill you, Artist. Only God can. And He will never leave you, never forsake you, never give up on you. No one else can do this for you.

Set your sights. Aim high, there is no other way to aim. Aim true. And straight. Let your art take its natural shape and swirl determinedly around your most profound Center. Let all the different angles, all the lovely lightings and timings and voices come through. Represent the vast and unknowable mysteries of God by creating. Shine forth the simplicity of Love with all your happy layers. Open yourself, spread wide every pore of you to the rivers of living water that exist only to cascade from your life and into those around you. Defy cynicism, that proud and blind boaster of knowledge. Become like a child in your observations and really see. Place high priority on wisdom. Flee legalism. Guard your mind from pointing its fingers. Guard your heart from regurgitated philosophies of this world. Let His mercy, beauty, grace float bouyantly to the surface, a bubbling hope bursting forth, a ready shout eclipsing all gray waters. Hone your art. Prune it. Plant it. Achieve excellence. Train yourself. Stretch. Grow. Change it up. Tell the truth. Watch others carefully. Listen even more carefully. Work hard.

Surrender. There is only one way to do this and that is by opening your hands. By jumping off. Let it all become nothing to you. Lose your sense of importance. Find yourself under the wings of an Almighty God. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? You are not an artist because of you, you are an artist because the Artist could not help but create you to create. In the beginning, God created...It was the first thing He did. And His love for you was such that He gave you this life, this ability to feel a part of who He is, to place your calloused fingers upon the heartbeat of Heaven, upon the pulse of history, upon the skin of Eternity. Believe that this is not of you. Be willing to give it away, be more willing to walk away from it. Begin to hear His voice. Do you think your art is a luxury, a selfish indulgence that you hide from His eyes because He would never allow you this freedom? That is a lie. He made your art as He made you, fearfully and wonderfully, and for it to come fully alive, for it to fill out and color deeply and begin to sing you must give it back to Him.

Do you think that all of this was done, that trees were made and flowers born, that every color of the rainbow resides in frogs, that seasons faithfully arrive throughout the year, for a bunch of rules? You are mistaken. All of it, every beautiful thing, Life, Music, Creation, Eyeballs, Brain cells, Redemption, Art, it was created for Love and with Love and by Love. Everything is built on Love. It started with love and continues with love. You could give all you had to the poor, you could have a faith that moved mountains, but if you didn't have love, it meant nothing. You must let Him be the inspiration that never runs out. Let His love be your main weapon, your most broken in tool, your frayed paintbrush, your tooth-gnawed pen, your ever present help in time of trouble. You must tap into the complex star-sung melody that weaves itself in and out of every good thing.  You must believe that there is no other thing for you than to be an Artist and surrender.

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