Monday, April 2, 2012

Art as a Calling

. (c) by Marilee Miller

Jeanne Damoff wrote on "The Master's Artist" blog last week –
“Art is a strange calling. Most people appreciate it at least on some level, but there are plenty who would label it as non-essential. If society had to choose between, say, farmers and artists, or doctors and artists, it's an easy guess who would land on the street corner holding up a (gorgeously lettered) sign declaring, "Will paint/sing/dance/write for food."

"I suppose it could be argued that we don't need art to survive, but that doesn't mean it's expendable."


A person commenting on Damoff's musings said, “"an artist is the very first person in scripture to be described as 'filled with the Spirit of God.' " (She is speaking of Bezalel, whom God inspired with extensive plans for the tabernacle built in the wilderness after the children of Israel made their exodus from Egypt.)

I’ve always had an artistic bent. But sometimes it’s been regarded by others as “playing when I should be working.”

My family background, and parts of society, including the church, considered the ability to earn a decent living very important, also, being a servant to others, or perhaps even a missionary or preacher. Since not many artists were capable of earning their livings from their art, being artistic was okay as a simple hobby if it didn't take away too much time from the servant of the community role. But art as a noble calling? Not hardly! Especially as in my case my cache of way too many art materials that only sometimes got used, made for a messy house. Even a church secretary appeared to be more practical than a non-earning artist. On the other hand, artists who DID "make it" charged such outrageous prices – the robbers!

I remember a time when my family and I were traveling, and we came across a booth displaying a lovely crystal glass ship with sails, about 2 feet tall, and beautifully shimmering under the special lighting. I said, "If my ship ever comes in, I'm going to have THAT!" And my dad replied, "If your ship comes in, you will want to have a soup kitchen to feed the hungry." (He was a gentle, caring man who didn’t boast about his good works, but just quietly went about his business of serving others. However, creating a soup kitchen was his dream, never fulfilled; but not mine.)

The various church buildings I have worshipped in, have had sanctuaries originally designed with care. Not ornate or over-imposing by any means, but "airy". Conducive to worship. But after the original building plan was complete, there would be much opposition when discussing the possibility of new stained glass windows or colorful aisle carpet; however, buying a steam dishwasher or coffee urn for 100 was "practical" and necessary.

All my adult life I've struggled over whether I can be considered an artist, since I’m not an entrepeneur, am not strong enough physically to create very many artworks, and I don't make a living at art (or even sell an occasional painting). For many years I’ve had to spend most of my time “resting” for the sake of health. So, am I as valuable to God as a missionary, evangelist, a double-tithing businessman, or somebody with clout for the kingdom of God?

If art is “playing” for my own pleasure, while serving others is God’s work for us, how do I, a limp-along doing her best but not seeing many productive results, keep right in God’s sight? To some people, I don’t do enough good in this world. But the answer is, I DON’T keep myself right with God; he keeps me right with him because of my faith in his righteousness (not mine). And the rest of the answer is – whether actually making art, or only thinking about what I’d like to make, my real and imagined projects are offered as worship to God.

I can’t say that everyone has viewed me as “not very productive,” or thought I should “do more” for the Savior, and “play” less. I know that the father of lies tries to convince me – as does a good deal of our society – that value is based on perceived-usefulness. I can’t say it would be any different if I hadn’t been artistic, since stay-at-homes who mostly pray (and few people even know that they DO pray), sometimes aren’t viewed the same as the “doer” types.

People who say art isn’t essential, don’t even realize they view priceless art which nourishes their spirits every day: the etched glass coffee carafe, a neatly tended lawn, the gilt on the moving hands of a clock, the magnets on a refrigerator. I think God has called me to be an artist, even though I don’t see as many results as I’d like to. And when I’m feeling stronger than usual so that my mind isn’t cluttered with the discouragement of trying to keep going in spite of not being well, then I believe that thinking or doing my art for God’s pleasure, is enough. “Whatever [I} do, [I] do all to the glory of God.”

May God inspire me to be his artist, and may he delight in my “play” – or work – for him.

This post is also shared with L L Barkat and Laura Boggess

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  1. "To some people, I don’t do enough good in this world. But the answer is, I DON’T keep myself right with God; he keeps me right with him because of my faith in his righteousness (not mine)."

    Good food for my soul! You have your own little 'soup kitchen' here. Thanks!! (just dropping by via Seedlings in Stone... an artist wanna be, staying home and loving it Mom--outgrowing her kids--and looking to be valuable for the Kingdom in new ways.... Thanks for this good post and your honest reflections. --LS

  2. Thanks for sharing this MM... What if art IS our worship as artists? It is the language through which God speaks to we who understand it and to those who choose to look deeper to see.... we need physical food, but we also need to feed our souls. Art does such for me! So thankful you pursue your art journey, for your art touches me!

  3. I agree with J. Damoff that art is a high calling; thank you for blessing us with your art. Many blessings to you :)

  4. This is a beautiful reflection. I heard a gentleman say recently, "Discover what delights God. That is true worship." I believe when we use our gifts, no matter how the world defines success, God is overjoyed. He loves it when you create, my friend. Don't you feel His pleasure?


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