This weekend I had a friend ask if I would give her an opinion on some of her art work. I had never seen anything that she'd painted before, and really just didn't know what to expect. What I saw blew me away. I know pretty close to nothing about art, rarely have I been moved by it. I've had my breath taken away by its beauty, yes, just not what I would call moved to any other emotions. However, when I opened the painting above (Faith) I was moved. I felt its meaning deep inside, and it created a serene picture of Mom's battle and where I am right now all at once. It made me cry.
That experience has led me to think about art in general over the last few days. Not just art, like paintings, but art more in the sense of creating. I believe God places some ability to create in all of us. After all, we are creatures created in His image, and He is the most creative artist there will ever be. If you look at the beauty of nature: the dark Nigerian compared to the fair English, the twittering of birds or the rushing of a waterfall, the feathery jeweled hues of peacocks compared to the deep gray wrinkles and daunting mass of an elephant, a creeping clambering wisteria vine to a prim and smiling daffodil, sweet honeysuckle nectar versus the spicy jalapeno pepper...He created it ALL, and its all full of unique beauty. Edith Schaeffer, in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking, says:
Man was created that he might create. It is not a waste of man's time to be creative. It is not a waste to pursue artistic or scientific pursuits in creativity, because this is what man was made to be able to do. He was made in the image of a Creator, and given the capacity to create--...But-and this needs emphasis-a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively. We are supposed to be representing the Creator who is there, and whom we acknowledge to be there. It is true that all men are created in the image of God, but Christians are supposed to be conscious of that fact, and being conscious of it should recognize the importance of living artistically, aesthetically, and creatively, as creative creatures of the Creator. If we have been created in the image of an Artist, then we should look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.
I know that I often chide myself when I want to take the time (or spend the money!) to make our home or yard beautiful. To be completely honest, I have even thought of artistic people as wasting their time. These thoughts aren't on a conscious level, but I think that our "money is power and time is money" society has jaded what God created us to be. God also created us to be productive, and I am certainly not advocating all of us laying in fields all day long looking and listening for beauty. However, on the whole I think that we need to be encouraged to think its not only OK, but a wonderful thing to do just that every once in a while. He created beauty, and it gives Him honor for us to delight in it. In the same way, he gave people the ability to create, and it honors Him for us to enjoy that as well.
I also want to say that I believe that art is not limited to painting, writing, or playing music. Some of us are gardeners, or cooks, or conversationalists, or dancers, or mathematicians, or florists, or actors, or seamstresses, or architects, or builders,... There are so many different creative strands that each allow a person the joy of taking the materials (physically or mentally) God has given them to create something beautiful by their own design. I believe that Scripture implies that we will all have jobs in Heaven, and wouldn't it make sense that God would have given these abilities, gifts that give us such joy to utilize, so that we might use them for eternal purposes in His kingdom? Just a thought.
I'm jumping around on this blog, but one sad thing I've noticed is that it is often the most artistic among us, who seem to be tragically flawed emotionally. It seems like they have to feel very deeply, in order to create truly beautiful art. This deep feeling appears to make them unable to "deal" with life's realities. That, at least, has been my thought process in the past. However, today I was thinking about these same artists and wondering how hard it would be to be a talented artist and not be able to understand the source of your own ability. Our pastor gave an illustration of a child prodigy who was a marvel with the violin. He was so great, that his peers encouraged him to play in Carnegie Hall. His teacher--his master, however, told him that he didn't believe that he was ready for that stage just yet. Ignoring the advice of his teacher, the young prodigy took the stage in front of a sold out crowd. He played beautifully, and at the end of the concert the crowd lept to their feet to give him a standing ovation. The young pupil, however, looked up at he crowd and then ran off the stage in tears. His mother grabbed his arm as he tried to push past her and asked what could possibly be wrong, "They love you," she cried, "just look at how they are cheering for you!" Her son replied, "Not all of them are cheering, LOOK!" The mother looked in the direction her son was pointing, to see that there was one member of the crowd, sitting on the front row who was still sitting with his arms crossed across his chest. It was the boy's master. The world's adulation mattered little, without the master's approval. How hard would it be to have great talent, but never hear "Well done, good and faithful servant" from the only master who mattered.
So, as spring begins, and we see Gods beauty burst on to center stage around us, I encourage all of us to take the time to really see it. And, while we're at it, appreciate each other's abilities as well.