Thursday, May 26, 2011

Only Artists Allowed


Kim and I have tried to encourage our children to express themselves artistically ever since they were able to express themselves at all.  To help cultivate their artistic gift we designated a section of the house as a sort of studio or art foundry where their creative impulses could be melted down, poured out, and given their final shape in the form of an art project:  painting, drawing, pasting, fastening, molding, coloring, etc.  Our ultimate goal was to get them to see themselves as artists – people who create.  And every time they poured themselves into a project and proudly presented it to us, we would heap praises upon them.  “You are a fabulous artist!”  “Your imagination is wonderful!”  “This might be your best masterpiece yet!”  Then the finished piece would go up on the wall for all the world to admire, attracting the playful wonder of anyone who would take the time to enter its unique perspective on the world.
            One day when Solomon was 4 years old I returned home from work to find a new piece of artwork in the house.  However, this piece wasn’t on the wall with the other masterpieces.  Instead it was taped to Solomon’s door.  It had a hand-drawn picture of a T-Rex dinosaur with razor-sharp teeth, along with the startling words, “ONLY ARTISTS ALLOWED.”  I was glad to see that our efforts at getting Solomon to see himself as an artist were paying dividends.  The sign on his door made it obvious – HE was an artist!  But when I opened the door to enter his room I quickly found out that he was rather exclusive when it came to recognizing the gift of art in others.  Solomon’s little sister and I were no longer allowed in his room because our art projects weren’t “as good” in his estimation (somehow Kim met his high standards – to no one’s greater surprise than her own!). 
            I think there is an important lesson for the church in this story.  We are all artists.  I realize that some of you may have never considered that fact.  But it is true.  We belong to the God who created all that is seen and unseen.  You were made in the image of the Creator-God.  And as a creature of God you have been gifted – hardwired, so to speak – with the passion and ability to mirror the creative juices of God.  We do this by taking the resources God has provided (the art supplies) and creating something beautiful.  Through the Holy Spirit God has given us crayons, Play-doh, glue sticks, and paint brushes.  God has set us before a vast canvas called the world and said, “Go therefore…make something beautiful!”  Whether you manage an office, sweep a floor, change diapers, or drive tractor, you are an artist.
            And just like my family had a space in our house where inspiration struck, there is a place where God’s children gather to receive a vision from God – the worship space.  That is where we lay ourselves on the anvil so we can be shaped into God’s workmanship, ready to be used by God to paint the world as God sees it.  I like to think of worship as “art in motion.”  We are first painted by the Artist, and then we are given a paintbrush and told to go paint the world in a similar way.  Everyone who truly worships becomes an artist.
            What would happen if you began to see worship as art?  Maybe it would help widen your imagination of who God is?  Maybe it would stoke the latent passion in your heart and inspire you to take more risks in expressing your love for God.  And what if you began to recognize yourself as an artist, working in a community of other artists (the congregation)?  Maybe it would help you embrace your calling to use your gifts and talents in the service of the King.  And maybe it would help you appreciate and affirm the contributions and giftedness of others in this community of artists.  Perhaps we should hang Solomon’s picture “Only Artists Allowed” on the door of the church, but instead of using it to keep people out, we would use it to encourage everyone who enters to pick up their paintbrush or crayon.  Maybe we would see more clearly that through worship God is creating a new world, and wants to use each of us to help!

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