Recently, I was looking through some old files and came across this journal entry I made over five years ago. During that time, I was wrestling with the fact that I would pour all of my energy and creativity into preaching a message on a Sunday or pastorally counseling someone during the week only to wonder if it made a difference at all. It felt that I was working hard every day but not leaving anything behind that was lasting. I had a desire to express the beauty, love and joy that I felt in Christ but was frustrated that I could not create anything that reflected what I was experiencing on the inside. I definitely still feel this way on some days, but don’t think that I could say it any better than I said it here.
October 17, 2011
I wish that I could compose music or paint masterpieces. To be able to express myself without words. My life, my feelings go beyond what I can cram in letters on a page. Writing them down does not feel like art. Punching on a keyboard and seeing black pixels appear upon a white screen feels so bleak. So reductionist. So unlike the songs in my soul. I wish that I could write them down in beautiful script and fill journals with deep and luscious thoughts. But when my pen touches paper, an ugly scrawl emerges. Barely legible to any reader, even if the reader is myself. The disjointed scribbles do not match the music in my mind and their garishness drains my inspiration. So I type here on a computer. How drab.
When I speak, I am alive. When I talk and communicate. But right now, there is no one in the room. Even when ears are present to absorb the words, they are intangible. They flow through the atmosphere and leave no trace of their existence. My art, my soul floating away, evaporating in the wind. No evidence is left. No galleries remaining behind. No books to be tucked away and discovered again. No scores to be replayed and to inspire more. Only words spoken into the wind.
To be able to write words that are worth reading again! Songs that lift the soul, paintings that bring tears. But I cannot do these things. Instead, I speak- if people listen. I listen- if people speak. Communication is my art. How strangely lonely it is.
At the core of it all, we desire to connect. The true artist creates something through a medium. He builds a relationship with that object (poem, sculpture, song) and then leaves it out in the open for others to come and have their own relationship with it. He pours himself into his masterpiece and it exists. The crowds might love it or hate it, but he doesn’t do it for the crowds. He does it for that one person whose gaze freezes when they see it, whose breath quickens when they hear it, whose mind is captured when they read it. He does it so that the art regenerates in someone else. And all of this is still a dream in the artist’s mind for he can never know what his art produces in another person. Truly, the artist creates because the art is in him and it must get out.
Something is in me and I don’t know how to get it out. Communication is my art. Like all the other artists, I hope that it captures someone. I dream that it takes root in another heart and reproduces. That somehow my joy, passion, depth might somehow transmit through the wavelengths between my mouth and their ears. And like all the other artists, this is a mystery to me. I never know what impact has been made within someone. But unlike the other artists, I have nothing left behind. At the end of the day, the painter has a painting- even if no one else wants it. It’s still his heart and his moment tangibly displayed giving evidence of his existence. He can go back into his room all alone and start to paint again.
But my medium is the air. My art requires others. Communication is not an art that can be done in solitude. My art is not just speaking into the void. My art is listening and interacting and responding and creating together. My art is understanding what someone is saying beyond the words that they use. It is letting God’s spirit take over and seeing in someone’s life what they cannot see themselves. It is discovering the perfect words that, when spoken, brings clarity to someone’s life. The art of expressing what is on someone’s mind better than they could express themselves. The art of revealing truth in a compelling way. Like all artists, I do not create but I reveal. I love my art. Praise God for the gift of it! How alive I feel when I am speaking alone with a person struggling in their life and God inspires my heart to share one phrase or one image. To masterfully find the words that speak into the mystery of their heart. To truly listen to them so that they feel heard and seen- perhaps for the first time in their lives. I love my art. To be able to stand before others and uncover truth that has been laying in the open for thousands of years but cannot be seen by the naked eye. To take something so complex and ethereal and make it accessible. To see the light bulb go on in people’s eyes. What an amazing honor to be used by God. It is all His work. His inspiration. But, oh, how fun it is to make this art.
But when the people go away, so does my art. There is no tangible intermediary that remains behind. There is no studio where I can go and continue creating alone. I said that my medium was the air, but I don’t think that this is true. My medium is relationships. My art is communication painted on the canvas of souls and lives.
All art is communication between people. Communication between the artist and his world. The physical artwork stands as the intermediary. My art has no intermediary. It is direct connection between me and others. Naked and vulnerable. The composer, the painter, the writer all interact with others without being in the room. That is not the case with the communicator. My art is direct. This is both an amazing joy and a crippling curse. I love the direct contact. The partnership, the immediacy, the risk and danger. To feel God use me. To experience that connection with another person. To be used in their life for His purposes.
But when the other person does not respond, my art fails. When there is no one around, my art is silent.
My art is always in the present. It is not stored away in crates to be discovered by future generations. It is always in the now. And this, perhaps is why I am often in mourning. It is why the moments of my most exhilarating artistry are often followed by periods of great sadness and discouragement. It is because the art is gone. Perhaps it remains in the heart of the listener. Perhaps they were changed and impacted and molded. Perhaps God used it to do incredible work in their soul. Perhaps. But I have no way of knowing and I have no painting to hang on my wall.
Lord God, my art is yours. All I have is yours. I lay myself at your feet. May I bring glory to you and not to myself. Forgive me when I see things only from my perspective and only from what benefits me. Open my mind to see like you see, Lord. Thank you for creating me the way that you do. Thank you for making me an artist and for those moments of being so fully alive through Your inspiration. Without you, I am nothing. I savor those moments because they are when I feel so close to you. I am so grateful, Lord. Forgive me for the times when I lose my gratitude and focus on me. My art is in the moment, so let me enjoy the moments when I am creating. And yet, I cannot be creating all of the time. So God, let me also enjoy the moments when I am not creating. Let me enjoy the artwork of others. Let me enjoy the artwork of each day that you create. It is not about me (so I keep telling myself). I do not have to be at the maximum of my function at all times. Come, Holy Spirit and take your place. Speak through me if it is your will. Reside in me (I know this is your will). Keep me from evil. Fill me with good. May my soul be deeply satisfied by you.