The Death of Art

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What is dead in your life?

That was the question that the speaker asked us to answer during our time of prayer. The point was to realize that God could bring the dead things in our lives back to life. He told us that whatever came to our minds first was the right answer.

So Nathan, what is dead in my life? Art.

Art? I really didn’t expect that. As I thought about it though, it made sense. I realize more and more all the time how much of a creative person I am – I’ve done theater, singing, improv, music, photography, writing, I even have a chalkboard wall in my apartment! Being creative has always been a part of my life, but since I’ve been in New York, it has been a side-note. I started improv because I wanted to act. I write this blog, because I need an outlet for my ideas. I’m an amateur in what I do (as opposed to a professional who can live off of his/her art). And I’ve got a little voice asking whether I should quit everything and pursue acting professionally. So, why does art feel “dead” in my life? I think it is because I’m not free to just be creative.

Here’s what I mean. There are three ways to look at our personal creativity:

1) I must be successful with my art, because success equates value. This is false. It is a self-centered view of creativity, because we obsess over the opinions of others. Unless we are recognized for our creativity, it is not worth doing. It is an impossible standard to live up to since we cannot please everyone.

2) I must do my art, because it defines me as a person. This is also false. It’s a self-centered view of creativity, because we create in order to either express our own self-worth or get something from others (money, recognition, power, etc). When we are not able to exercise our creativity in freedom, we find less value in ourselves. This is ultimately an impossible standard to live up to since life circumstances get in the way of our creativity.

3) I am free to create. As Christ-followers, we have ultimate value regardless of our creative capacities, because God found us worth the price of sending Jesus to die for us. We are therefore free to exercise our creativity whatever circumstances we face. As Christ-followers, we find motivation to be creative in the fact that we have been created in the image of God, the ultimate creator. And while there are standards of good and bad art, we are free to create without be shackled by the opinions of others.

I go back and forth between options 1 & 2. Sometimes I daydream about working as a pastor part time and being an actor the rest of the time. I’ve told people for years that I would like to model or audition for tv commercials. I haven’t done it. I’m scared to death. Death – there’s that word.

Here’s what I know: God wants us to live in option 3. He wants us to be free to be creative. I don’t know how to work it all out in my head, but I do know that the gospel is the only answer for the creative. Make sense? I’d love to hear your comments.

Also, last week I wrote more explicitly on what the gospel means for creatives. Check it out here.

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The Death of Art

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