Standing in front of a few hundred college students today, talking with them about how art matters in the kingdom of God, my husband and I shared some thoughts from Erwin McManus. His idea is that everyone is an artist, because we have a soul. And being an artist is simply entering into the process of ushering in beauty, goodness and truth. Which means there are a bazillion ways to do that. I can bring the kingdom of God to another with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It may be the good news they need right then. Hospitality and laughter and being in a home may just be the beauty their soul craves.
This should give us great hope that, no matter where we are on the “creative” scale (from Elmer’s glue to rich oil paints), no matter where we are in the process of ushering in beauty, goodness and truth - our choices and our attitudes and hearts and our HOW we make things and live our life is where the mattering is.
We are at level playing ground if our greatest work is the life we live. In the grand picture of our souls - McManus also says: “We are both works of art and artists at work.”
He points out that at first our lives are like a canvas where others begin to paint a portrait of who we are. As we develop and mature...we take the brush and paint into our own lives.Then we leave we turn the brush around and leave our mark on the world.
And as I have talked with college students for the last 15 years - one of the biggest motifs I've seen is that they want to leave a mark on the world.
But instinctively, we want a mark to point back to ourselves, don’t we? It’s our human nature to want to point everyone back to us. Look at how great we are! Look at me! Consider me! Think about me!
However, if we know God and believe we are loved by God and created for good works to glorify God - and are being renewed in our thinking of who is the real King - King Jesus - then the mark we leave - the creative mark we can leave behind - is what is done in love.
Love leaves a mark.
God created us out of love.
God renews our souls and regenerates our hearts out of love. God takes ashes and makes them beauty...takes devastated places and makes them strong towers and oaks of righteousness, the plantings of the Lord, to display His splendor….All. In. Love.
And love remains. Anything done in faith, hope and love will remain says 1 Corinthians 13. And the greatest of those three? Love.
So our life’s work, our life as the masterpiece, leaving our mark on this world - whatever is created in love, said in love, done in love, knitted in love, danced in love….it will somehow remain. What is done that is like wood, straw and hay….that cannot last. That will not remain through a refining fire in the end. But faith, hope and love are like the precious stones, the gold and silver that are more beautiful as they are refined.
But does this mean all my art has to be Jesus stuff and crucifixions and St. Peter statues? Not at all. God created and keeps creating because it is just who He is. And he made all kinds of beautiful, good and true creatures and mountains and forests and sunsets and colors. And keeps doing so.
The other day my 8 year old son, Robby, was lost in a world of legos and building and creating. He showed me an elevator he made for his lego castle - some simple machine stuff going on - all levers and pulleys. It was innovative and awesome. No less than 48 hours later, I find Rob at our art table trying to master an elevator out of tinker toys for the race car work party race course he was creating, and I thought:
Robby is just like His dad.
And we are just like our heavenly Father when we create like Him.