God has brought me on an epic creative journey since I moved here.
In college, I searched the world for inspiration for weekly assignments and was always hard pressed for ways to express my creativity, stressed out by deadlines and a lack of motivation. I know what you’re thinking - “what a fun, life-giving cocktail of emotions!!” Not quite. Regardless, I managed to find a style and create in a way that was satisfying at the time. The result was a lot of dark and creepy art. I liked that my art weirded people out - at least it was a reaction! Plus, all the happy art always seemed so cliche, and cliche is ~ cringey ~
Then I moved here, and a lot of things changed for me. I finally realized something that was probably painfully obvious to my family: that the Holy Spirit could be an endless source of inspiration for me. Once I realized this and embraced it, I learned that the art I could create through His prompting was much more life giving than what I’d grown accustomed to. The way I pursued inspiration changed from searching for “dark photography” on Pinterest and following “witches” on instagram to pursuing a really unique and exciting relationship with my Creator. Now my entire process could be life giving! That’s what got me here. To all 15+ images I created in the last 12 months, and the things they taught me and the things I was able to put in writing to share with all of you.
The biggest realization that I had after this was that my art is not my own. It’s a gift to me, from the Lord. My hope is that everything I create points back to him in one way or another. So I “gave my art (back) to God”, in the same way I tithe a percentage of my income every month. I believe that everything I have came from Him, so it makes sense to give a portion of it back to Him. It’s a creative and unique way that I can worship Him.
My small human-brain expected that once I consciously “gave” my art back to God, the floodgates would open and result in never ending inspiration and motivation and opportunity and I could quit my day job and make money doing only what I ~love~ and praise Jesus all day long through it and live happily ever after with my art in huge frames on gallery walls across the world. That’s not exactly what happened.
Actually, I began to feel like God had taken a step back from me. Like the sweet closeness I’d cultivated with Him and reveled in for months was beginning to grow into a different, distant, weird thing that was unfamiliar to me and not as fun. I stopped feeling constantly inspired. I stopped having epic revelations about my life every week. A month or two passed like this, and my heart began to feel stretched.
“God, I gave it back to you. Why did you take it and turn away? Why did you stop planting images in my head and speaking to me during worship? Why did you stop speaking to me so clearly? Why do I have to work so hard to feel close to you now?”
These questions tumbled around in my head for a few weeks. I kept answering myself with “Maybe you’re being tested!” “Maybe this is the time you get to learn what it looks like to be obedient without immediate gratification.” “Maybe this is when you’re meant to prove to yourself and the Lord that you’re in this for the long haul - not just the emotional high.” “This is an opportunity to dive into the word in a way you never have before.”
But talking to myself began to feel pointless, and I began to feel more frustrated and defeated than motivated and dedicated. I felt myself slipping into a doubt-filled mind fog. I began to feel stuck, like I was knee deep in a pit of mud.
Crying about my feelings wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I turned to a familiar and trusted voice.
Lacey Sturm (lead singer of Flyleaf turned solo artist) released her 3rd book a few months ago, and I bought it right after it landed on shelves. I read a few pages before I buried it on a shelf and forgot about it.
In the middle of my mud pit I decided to pick it back up, and over the course of a week or two I realized I had turned to Lacey’s words in search of an answer to a question I hadn’t put into words. I was hoping she could put into words what I was missing and give me an answer that made me feel normal. I was more than halfway through the book and coming up on the end of a cup of coffee, getting ready to head to the next thing in my life, when I found it. And it wasn’t until I found it that I even realized I’d been looking for something.
Here’s what she had to say:
“There are seasons in which our worship style will shift. As a baby Christian, I stayed at my heavenly Father’s chest. He held me, comforted me when I cried, and obliged my silly requests, so I would know that he hears.
I learned that he is faithful.
I learned that he’s extravagantly loving.
He is never annoyed or exhausted with me.
He is purposeful and intentional in letting me know that he is trustworthy. He was kind enough to build trust in me, patiently, as I fumbled through with honesty and questions. Finally, after enough time, he called me to walk on my own. I now know more about his character. I know his voice better. I know his heart and love for me more than ever. I know him a little more, and he can set me down. If I cry when he sets me down, he waits for me to realize that I’m still okay and that he hasn’t left me. When I realize that he still loves me, I can relax. Then I can enjoy his delight in me as I start to walk on my own.”
Those words hit me like a ton of bricks and the lightbulb in my brain flickered on - I’d just come into my season of being “set down”. It really is that simple. My Father is still close by, ready to comfort me and tell me it’ll all be okay when I cry for Him, but it’s time for me to operate more independently. Friends had told me something similar when I shared what I was struggling with, but I wasn’t listening, and the metaphor Lacey used painted a vivid and relatable image in my head. I felt really relieved and stopped trying to control God’s timing. I realized I had given my art back to him based on the expectation he would hand it right back.
During my thin-place phase with Jesus I was really afraid that a time would come when He would abandon me. Everybody talks about struggling through a phase in their faith where they can’t hear from the Lord. They usually say it has more to do with their own heart/mind than anything He’s “doing” or not doing but, regardless, I was so comfortable in the arms of my heavenly Father that the idea of feeling any distance from Him was terrifying. The sweet thing about Jesus is that when he set me down and I felt this distance, he still moved really obviously in my life. I couldn’t deny that he was still invested in me and still caring for me - so even though our relationship had changed, and I was feeling the distance I’d been dreading, it wasn’t scary and it wasn’t abandonment, because I could so clearly see his influence in my life. It wasn’t abandonment because he never leaves us - he promised he wouldn’t, and he keeps his word.
I don’t have any art for you. I literally haven’t created a single image since my last post in June.
I’m learning how to be creative in other ways - in my friendships, in the way I worship, in the ways I spend my time, in how I pray, and what I’m doing to invest in myself and my future.
I have stepped out of my mud pit, into a place of freedom in my art. Freedom to express my creativity and my heart for Jesus in more than weirdo-slightly-dark-and-really-deep-square images. Freedom to make art or not. Freedom to write a blog post without an image to accompany it. Freedom to embrace creativity in all it’s exciting and unexpected forms.
I definitely spent a lot of time confused and complacent, and I’m in no hurry to reach some far away goal or see a dream come to fruition, but I’m no longer sitting around waiting, or wandering aimlessly. Exciting things are on the horizon, and I’m learning how to trust and love my creator back every single day.
Thanks for reading - It’s weird to be so vulnerable so publicly.