Author’s Note: This is a companion piece to an article I wrote a while back called This Beautiful Altar: Surrendering our Creative Process.
I’ve never enjoyed exercising. Ever since I began voice lessons at age 13 in 8th grade, I’ve shunned organized sports. My lack of eye-hand coordination and dislike of sweat was as much of a motivating factor as my love of music in this decision. As I’ve progressed through adulthood, however, the need to exercise has become increasingly important. I decided that before I reached age 30, I wanted to make physical fitness a consistent and vital part of my life. I’d tried many times before, but would only make it for about 3-4 months before I got bored or lazy or too busy, and my exercise efforts would abruptly halt. A year and a half ago, that changed. I met a girl at work who also needed a workout partner, and we set a schedule. After about 10 years of trying to workout, I finally succeeded in making it a habit, but I was only successful because I was not alone.
So too with creating.
I have a dream of an artistic community wherein differing styles and disciplines and personalities mingle and clash and sharpen. It is so much more than mere accountability, although I deeply need that, too. It goes beyond critique and criticism, even though those things are necessary and invaluable. It is far more profound than simple mutual enjoyment of our art, despite the joy it brings.
A community of redeemed artists must reflect in their habits the true nature of their calling.
And what a high calling has been given to the artists and the poets:
- To offer glimpses of eternity
- To remind us of the glory we will see one day
- To hold up a cracked and sympathetic mirror of our brokenness
- To give voice to pain that many cannot express
- To reflect in some small way the beauty of the Elohim the Most Beautiful
This calling means our questions to our fellow artists must go beyond form and technique to questions of the soul. If our art is ever to play a part in making anyone else new, we must first ourselves be made new. That means we must agree to dive deep into each other’s pain and sit among the shards of broken glass, and then ask how it can best and most truly be translated into art. That means we must speak the truth of the Gospel into each other’s brokenness and then ask how that healing can also be best and most truly translated into art. That means we must delve in to the mysteries of Almighty God, for how can we reflect a glory that we do not yearn for or see? How can we reflect his beauty unless we have first gazed upon the beauty of the Lord?
In this dream, we must move beyond mere criticism of each other’s art. Anyone can criticize. We must walk together as brothers, know each other as sisters, and when we have shone the light of truth on each other’s darkness, say to the other ‘Now this is the story you tell.’ We must spur each other on to a greater knowledge of the holy and then together paint a clearer picture of He who is Awesome and Holy and Terrifying and Lovely. We must journey together as we are made new and then tell the story of that making.
Even the Godhead created in trio.
Certainly we were never meant to walk alone.