Art is Hopeful

Arts and TheologyOne of the books I’m currently reading is Makoto Fujimura’s Refractions, a collection of essays reflecting on faith, art and culture. It works as a devotional book with its starting places and illustrations in art. I love it so far. In chapter 8, he writes this:

Art is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator…[art] is done in hope; the creator reaches out in hope to call the world into that creation.”

Makoto Fujimura - Refractions

Makoto Fujimura – Refractions

The very fact that we imagine something that is not created yet, we reach out to it, to see it become manifest is an act of hope. We don’t know for sure if the thing in our brains will become the thing in reality, but we hope it will. When writing a song, I normally have a specific feel that I can’t quite put to words and I’m straining to work it out in reality- to see the intangible become tangible (at least in some way).

And this creating is not limited to art. We are all little creators, an attribute given by The Creator. With our lives we can create beauty and life (such as being a sacrificial husband or a loving sibling) or we can create chaos and death (such as being an abusive spouse or an arrogant Christian). We all create, sometimes for life, sometimes for death. We are a mix of artist and terrorist.

The Christian’s job is to be creating beauty in this world, seeking God’s will to be reflected here on earth as it is in heaven.

We have a mandate to become artists, using the wreckage of broken beauty in this world. We each have a different brush, a different voice, a different movement, but and we are all united in the hope we have to create. A hope for our own creations, and a hope in the One who made creation.

Box of Rocks

During the past few weeks I’ve found myself more aware of my own self-doubt in addition to experiencing it at a level higher than normal. I often feel as if what I’m doing does not matter and not only that, but what I am doing or creating is not good. It would be one thing to create something that I know is good, but have it not matter, but it’s another level altogether when whatever it is that I do is not considered good. And who is judging this good? Mostly myself: my preoccupations with perfection and self-hatred seem to multiply together to create a person filled with doubt and uncertainty. These are just the way it is for some of my weeks.

Then I have some weeks where I am arrogant and feel entitled. What I’m doing is not recognized as the greatest masterpiece of life that ever was and I’m angry about that. I am a misunderstood and brilliant artist who is not getting what is due to him, mostly because people don’t “get” art or think of it as something as important as they should. This is ultimately prideful, and my major aim in writing songs or teaching or whatever is for people to see how incredible I am. Oh, the irony of writing or playing a worship song so that people will bow down to me! These are just the way some of my other weeks go.

Most of the time, my life occurs somewhere between these extremes, but these extremes crop up here and there. And for most of my life, I would focus on getting things right so as not to go to these extremes. That is a valuable quest in itself, but I think something more important and fundamental must go on beneath all of this. The inconceivable fact is that through all of the goodness and badness in me, God still chooses to use it and create something good out of it. Not for my vain glory and not for me to feel better about myself (though I do), but for the progression of His kingdom. In fact, if we stop for a second, we’ll probably realize how tainted our “good” works really are. Our arrogance leads us to believe we can do perfect things. Only God working through us can take our lame offering of goodness and redeem it, creating true beauty, something of true importance.

The hard thing for me is to be OK with that. I want to know how to fix it, want to remove the mystery and grace of God coming to us, I want to not depend on God. And of course as we mature, we do learn how to do things better, but the harder thing for me (all of us?) is to accept the love of God. We don’t want it. We would rather go on without it. The acceptance assumes we want it or need it or were somehow worse off without it. My daily battle is to accept God’s love, knowing that He loves me, because I don’t believe it. It seems incredible: he comes alongside this lame self-doubting and arrogant sinner and gives him grace and mercy and even uses him to further His kingdom. It seems incredible because it is.