“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Isaiah 61:3
Someone recently told me that they thought God was restoring the arts to the church. When I asked what they meant they had difficulty giving a complete answer, but instead talked about worship styles and creativity in the church. Personally, I don’t think that the arts were ever lost to the church. Perhaps a particular local church body – but the arts and artists have a life of their own and they will manifest whether they are wanted or not. Art is more about seeing and hearing and then sharing those observations in a particular media.
Perhaps the first hint of their spiritual importance is that throughout the Old Testament, God’s gift of wisdom seems to evidence greater creativity, (Exodus chapters 28 and 31). It should be obvious that God is creative and if we are made in his image, we should not be surprised at our creative interests. Accepting the idea that we are a creative people is one thing. Making room for those gifts is quite another.
Artists see and show. They see things most of us miss and reveal their vision in their own unique way. Each work of art then, is a story and an invitation into a new world. Whether the art is visual, musical, literary or dramatic, it captures us in its curious form and draws us into the story. Once there, if we will look and listen, we will learn something about God, ourselves and the world around us.
Most artists are sensitive and very aware. They tend to feel strongly, act impulsively and withdraw. At other times, they are outgoing and gabby, all excited about their work and the people around them. Artists are often prone to depression and anxiety. They think a lot and their synapses are often firing with such rapidity that the rest of their world has trouble keeping up with their ideas and energies. When this happens or if their work is not accepted, they can sink into seasons of despair.
Another challenging characteristic of the creative person is that they can tolerate ambiguity more easily than most people. They tend to be less absolute and therefore open to a greater host of ideas, at times resisting boundaries all together. As the soul is open to new ideas and feelings, it is easy take on the emotion and spirit of an author or artist. Although this may sound silly to many, the reliable research clearly supports this fact. As a result, it is common for many creative people to suffer from disillusionment. The subsequent heaviness of spirit can cripple the most talented among us. On the other hand, heavy censorship of exposure to material and experiences can so frustrate the artistic individual that they rebel all together. As a result, church is challenging for the typical artist.
There is good news however. Christ has come to liberate us from heaviness of spirit and oppression of mind. This is not a smiley attempt to cheer everyone up. It is a fact of enormous consequence in our lives, that if we live by the rule of God’s Spirit, we will find fullness of life. I do not so much believe that God is restoring the arts to the church, but that he is restoring and perhaps reuniting the artist and the church. God is not desirous of creative works to decorate his kingdom at the expense of the sanity of the one doing the work. He pays better than that.
God creates from a sense of wholeness and integrity. He is at peace with himself and His work. His redemption in the life of the artist is not only to wash their sin and bring them into fellowship, but also to provide such meaning that we can work without division of our own spirit.
The notion that God accepts us and is tutoring us to create like him is a wild and fancy thing, but that is exactly the case. He is inviting all who will hear into a limitless, wonderful world; His world. It is not some spirit hinterland that we must search through, troubling ourselves with hints and terrors. Instead it is a life of spiritual fullness and joy. It is a certain journey.
The most creative people in the Bible are the prophets. The see and show. They are God’s special voice in a troubled time and are vital to the well being of nations and individuals. You are such a one. Take off your heavy robes and put on the praises prepared for you to sing, dance, and illustrate.
So, be yourself wherever you happen to be. Do what it is that you do – and do it well. Accept rejection as a sign post that there is another place – another people – with whom to share your art; your self.