I am about to inflict you with another of my very personal stories and observations. I hope it will resonate with a few souls that may be wrestling with their giftedness; whatever it may be.
The longer that I am in the arts, the more I have come to realize that there are many things that I thought (or had been told) were selfish or unacceptable thinking; and, often misguided as the source for motivation – that may need a second look.
The “Christian” perspective has been pretty much; don’t let your ego get in the way. Do not seek or thrive upon the approval of others; God’s affirmation is way enough. Certainly it is fundamental in our inspiration and grounds us to the source of our gift. But, it may be, in it’s own way, like “man cannot live by bread alone”. There are times when we need more.
It has been some time since I have had a showing of my art anywhere, as I had rationalized that activity as something I did not need to continue to be creative. I could simply do “art for arts sake”. Finished work started to pile up in the rack and storage areas. I had begun to feel comfortable with the idea of giving my art away, picking occasions to acknowledge a wedding, holidays or a response to some act of kindness. The last of which was given to my hygienist for an arduous job of teeth cleaning. I have enjoyed giving all of them away; especially that one.
The obvious pleasure in giving was personal, even self serving in that I apparently was looking for something I was not getting; approval, and positive acknowledgement of the value of what I was doing. And, at the same time observing God’s mandate that we bless others (perhaps secondarily).
Some months ago I was contacted by a friend and member of an evangelical church some distance away. She is, among others things an art teacher in a Christian school where I had previously spoken. She has often brought art into her church for display and discussion. I had long experimented with this as a way to help develop in-house ministries with limited success in the past, but I agreed to bring them to her.
She hung them right in the Sanctuary. More often than not paintings are hung in locations like balconies, foyers and halls. One mutual qualification was that I needed to speak at an appointed time to interested members on the subject of my choice.
The time came for me to retrieve them (some 25 pieces). A “family day” was honored and a pot luck scheduled. I was on just after dessert. As I prepared for my talk, I became really aware of the rare opportunity that presented itself. I had centered my thoughts on the theme “Pray for the bus, and run as fast as you can”. I rehearsed and prepared notes, where previously I was inclined to “wing it”.
We arrived in the middle of their praise and singing time, witnessed the baptism of a young man, and a dedication of little girl. Both of which were open to personal blessings and prayers by members of the congregation. There were so many. I know of no time that I was more touched, in my many years in the church, by the ease and sincerity of the personal appeals made by laymen; or the open, patient and accommodating endorsement of a pastor who had absolutely no time schedule….. even to surrendering his agenda and sermon time. He spoke only as one of “the body of Christ” : not as a Pastor, but only one of the body. I think of the times when I have seen fear and agonizing over whether someone might hit a wrong note or disturb the level of professionalism and continuity of the service. This had no rehearsal, no remorse ….. It was God crafted.
Back to my original point; Sometimes we as “creatives” need even more than God and ourselves; We need “The Body” wherever we find them. I was so privileged to find that people had written comments and compliments in a log book, and that upwards of twenty percent of the congregation showed up to listen and join in discussion. The message in some of my paintings was the subject of some sermons during those two months of exposure. Pastor Dennis Nice had endorsed and shepherded the idea of the active role of creativity in the Church at large, and certainly in his life. He is a marvelous writer.
Julia Cameron writes: “As artists we need to focus on process, not product, and yet we need a catcher”s mitt”. We make art to communicate not only to ourselves, but also the world”. Someone or something must represent that world and it must be the right something; the Church, the right Church is a place to start. This one has it right. God can be our catcher’s mitt as well.
The final point concerning; “man cannot live on bread alone”. Julia says: “Your artist adult self may say ‘no big deal’; but your artist? Your artist has the character traits of a terrier puppy. It was proud to have made a that bone and dragged it home, defending it against other dogs and managing to lay it at master’s feet”.
So what about a pat on the head? To that I say “Woof”. We do need encouragement; we do need praise and comfort.
My doggie bowl runneth over! So, what about a pat on the head?
To that I say “Woof!”
If you have been there, give me an honest woof.