While we were in Australia, I started taking an art class. I have always wanted to, and it is the biggest regret of my life that I never studied art in college. Having misplaced so much of "me" during our first 3 years on Thailand, I thought perhaps bits of "me" could be recovered by returning to my long latent love of art. (I had always wanted to be a missionary, and was also sure that art was never going to be of any use, and so never pursued it.)
I found a class not far from me, and enrolled, just for the pure hedonistic joy of learning something as frivolous as art. In that room surrounded by the incredible talent of the other students and teacher, the scent of turpentine, colors, canvas, paper and pencils I found a window into myself. God used the art to show me so many things.
He showed me, that anything, anything given to Him can be useful. I don't have to be the most amazing artist on the planet to paint. I learned that it is so so hard to see a whole flower when you have been focusing on one petal. I learned, a little bit, to swallow my fear and TRY. An to keep on trying. I learned that art can be a safe voice to have a conversation or to tell a story. I learned that we worship God by creating, and even if my paintings don't change the world, I spent time creating like our Almighty Creator.
And now I am learning to loosen my grip on my paintings. To not let fear of them not being any good, or people thinking I'm bragging, to keep me from sharing them. Recently, I decided to paint several little paintings for people to use as postcards. I thought it was a most excellent idea, and I assumed that God would imbue me with great ideas and extra skill. Sadly, He did no such thing, and so I ended up with 4 blah paintings. I had decided not to use them, but then it occurred to me that I needed to exercise humility. I needed to offer up what I had as it was, both as an act of worship to God, but also as an act of love to my community.
I think pursuing art has taught me so much grace. I HAVE to be willing to make mistakes. Some can be erased, some have to be scrapped. But I have to try. And acknowledge that I will never "arrive" as an artist. I will never be the best. But I am learning to do something I love. I hope I can use it, such as it is, to encourage others, and maybe even turn their eyes to God. This is my hope.
Friday, September 30, 2016
I took the kids in my carpool to McDonalds for an after school ice cream a few days ago. It was MEANT to be a treat. It was MEANT to be a special GIFT in which they would delight. It was MEANT to bring them happiness.
But, the ice creams only come in vanilla. And they weren’t the originally discussed icy-poles (popsicles). They weren’t quite “cool” enough. Or special enough.
They didn’t really make my car-full of ingrates delighted or sated.
They were a disappointment.
Lately, I’ve been wrestling with what feels very much like a “calling” to art. Daily, I wrestle with my own artistic limitations, lack of knowledge, and natural skill. A lack of natural “eye”. My composition is poor. My technique is lacking. I can’t achieve what is in my mind, if indeed it was in my mind to begin with. I feel too late to the game to ever learn all there is to learn.
I always thought that if God gifted someone to do something, that it meant that they did it easily. And really well. That gifts from God made things easy. Phlbt. Yes, phblt. Not so.
This “gift” of art that God has given me is HARD. There have been no supernaturally imbued skills. No super natural images magically creating themselves before me. Nope. And, along with it, there hasn’t been any life-changing going on either. Art is notorious for being unhelpful…
As I’m wrestling with feeling like such a fake as I identify more and more as an artist, but still feeling the burden to continue to paint, the compulsion to create, and weight of needing to capture the “feeling” of a sunset, or a face, or a bird… And, once again, I am comparing myself against people I see ACTUALLY changing their world. People with sweet admin skills starting up NGOs, people with people skills fearlessly building relationships, people who are fearless leaders full of wisdom and spiritual drive. People with gifts that are different than mine. More... shall we say, "chocolatey"? And I feel like “Hey GOD! What? Only Crappy Ol VANILLA Ice Cream!? That’s all I GET!?” And I see my face reflected in the (much loved) ingrates in my car… And I know I’m them. And I’m sure God rolls His eyes like I did when they complained. And I suspect that maybe He wishes, just ONCE I would be grateful. Just ONCE SOMETHING would be enough for me…
SO, I am trying to offer up to Him what I’ve got. Little and small and “blobbity” though it is. Trying to remember that it’s not about my awesome skills, (or desperate lack there of) but about trying. That trying to paint and draw as I’ve been “gifted” to is all I need to offer Him. He doesn’t demand a masterpiece. He doesn’t need me to be “super awesome”… but only to TRY… and perhaps a little danged gratitude wouldn’t go astray…