“Cultivating beauty, creating order, crafting a life that celebrates goodness and innocence is not frivolous. It gives a living picture, a tangible reminder in a dark, difficult world that God is present. He is with us. He brings light. Beauty heralds hope.”
~ Sally Clarkson
It seems like we often equate things like writing, singing, painting, photography, etc with a hobby. It’s rare that you’ll here someone say “I’m a doctor in my spare time” or “I work in pharma on the side” or “I like to dabble in law”. I’ve written more on this in a post entitled Why Are We So Tired? so I won’t spend too much time fleshing out that train of thought here. You can head over to that post to read more 🙂
Although Beauty can be found in anything, perhaps we often look for it in things like writing, painting, photography, dance, singing, needlework, wood-carving etc etc. Perhaps we look for Beauty in the things we often label superfluous or unnecessary to living a good life.
We can raise an eyebrow when someone tells us they want to pursue a career in painting but we nod & smile & perhaps even express admiration when someone tells us they want to pursue a career in the medical field or in business.
Then, we stand in museums and gawk at paintings or we cheer in a stadium as we listen to our favourite musical artists. But those are things we only do on weekends, when we have the spare time. We push things of Beauty off to the side and devote our attention to “real-life” matters;
when the truth is, we should be cultivating Beauty in every aspect of our lives.
I’ve been reading through Exodus in my devotions & I’ve been struck by the fact that Yahweh promised to meet with His people right smack-dab in the middle of Beauty. He had them carve the mercy-seat out of solid gold, lovely humans, solid.gold.
& then they had to carve ornamental buds & flowers all over it too. If the Creator of the Universe chose to meet with chosen people in the midst of Beauty, what does that say about the way we should live our lives as His image-bearers?
He’s given us a beautiful world to live in; a world with multi-coloured flowers, a blue sky that compliments the green leaves of the trees which stretch to the heavens.
& we have to make time to do something beautiful.
& we urge people to chose more practical career paths.
& we call our day-jobs “work” while things like photography are “hobbies”.
It’s sad, lovely humans. It’s really sad.
Which brings us to my favourite read of 2020; a book which instantly made it in my top 5 favourite books of all time.
Adorning the Dark by Andrew Peterson.
Reading that book was like coming Home. I wrote on the title page:
“every once in a rare while, you meet a book that speaks your language; this one speaks mine”.
Lovely humans, I wept reading nearly every chapter.
But, since I don’t have enough room to do a proper review of ATD, I’m going to try & stick to the main bits & not get carried away…we hope.
The book’s full title is Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making. Andrew Peterson deals with the importance of creativity & Beauty within the Christian community in particular. He challenges the frequent mediocrity in Christian music & writing; using his own experiences to highlight a Biblical Truth:
we are image bearers of a God Who delights in Beauty & excellence & we should delight in the same.
“That calling, as I understand it, is to use whatever gifts I’ve been given to tell the truth as beautifully as I can.”
*until further notice, the following quotations will be from Andrew Peterson*
Not just any arbitrary notion of truth but the Truth of Scripture; the Truth of gospel-salvation & of life here in a sin-cursed, yet dazzling world.
So, lovely humans, creating with your mind or your hands is a way of giving glory to the Creator;
of spreading His Truth.
I know several lovely ladies who use their hand-lettering talents to write Scripture attractively on cards & then get those cards into the hands of thousands of people across the world.
I know many lovely humans who use Instagram as a place to write Hope-filled, Christ-centered captions.
I have a lovely friend who uses her beautiful voice & musical mind to put Scripture to music on Instagram & YouTube in an effort to help Christians memorize more of Christ’s Word.
& what is this if not using whatever gifts you’ve been given to tell the Truth as beautifully as you can?
“Art shouldn’t be about self-expression or self-indulgence. Art shouldn’t be about self…the aim ought to be for the thing to draw attention, ultimately, to something other than the Self…the Word that made the world. In that grand chamber alone will art find its best end, as an avenue to lead the audience Home.”
Oh, do you feel it, lovely humans? Do you feel the power behind those words? Creativity, Art, in whatever form is never about us ultimately. We’re Stewards of Story; all of us. Stewards of the truest Story there ever was.
& self-expression is dangerous ’cause our selves, our hearts, are deceitful above all else & desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) Things we spew from the depths of our being; those knee-jerk reactions borne out of our own hurt, pain, foolishness, & sin will do great evil.
Since we’re sinners, even those of us who are redeemed sinners, anything un-sanctified by Christ & breathed on by His Spirit will end in ruin.
Hence the high calling of Creativity. It’s something to Steward well; not something to twist to our own ends.
“Let me die to my need to be someone important. Let me die to my need to leave a mark.”
This is the paradox of the Christian life coming into play yet again:
we die to self & come Alive to Christ
over&over&over again each day.
It’s no different as Stewards of Story.
Ahh, there’s so much more I could say about this smashing book but let me reign in this post, bid a temporary farewell to Andrew Peterson, & end with one of my favourite things about Art & Creativity & Beauty:
it pushes back the Night of this world & adorns the Dark with Gold.
Perhaps, if you’re a creative, you’ve really struggled this past year (2020) & you’re still struggling here in 2021. You’re struggling to know why you should even continue writing, singing, painting, photographing in a world that has gone mad.
Wouldn’t you be better off laying down your pen, brush, & camera & taking up more practical things like a “real” job that will make a dent in all of…this?
What good are words when people are filled with hatred & anger & confusion?
One of my favourite creatives had something to speak to this dilemma since he experienced the same thing in 2020:
“Why does it even matter? Why try to create images of a fantasy world when the real world seemed to be burning around me?…[because] access to good stories, beautiful music, and awe-inspiring art can reinvigorate us to go back into the struggle with lighter spirits and a resolute heart…
The darker things get, the more we need the light…We must create beauty, we must share joy, we must inspire courage. Trials and woe will come, but we can equip ourselves with courage to face them and joy to endure.”
~ Zan Campbell ~ “Joy Under the Shadow”
You get that, lovely humans? It is a very brave thing to create in a world that knows only how to destroy.
It’s testifying you believe in a Hope beyond all of this;
in something that will outlast this mortal realm.
Beauty will be Eternity’s theme;
the Beauty of the risen Saviour & the majesty of the reigning King, God Most High.
So we’d best get busy adorning our lives with Christ.
Wear beautiful clothes,
speak beautiful words,
take time to add touches of Beauty to your home.
Strive for excellence even in this ’cause every moment, every task, every word is holy to the Lord.
In this time when many are timidly, wearily gluing together the broken shards of their sanity for what seems like the millionth time;
barely daring to Hope & too jaded to heal;
may we create with abandon.
It’s not less-than;
it’s not “just” a hobby.
It’s Life in a dying world
& it is a very brave thing to create in the midst of madness & destruction 🖤
:: finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
~ philippians 4:8 ~
:: we’re in a War, my friends, & we all need Courage on the Front Lines ::
links to some of the lovely humans I mentioned in this post:
:: hand-lettering Scripture: Katie :: A Life Set Free Instagram
:: putting Scripture to music: Abby :: Melodically Memorizing YouTube :: Melodically Memorizing Instagram
:: link to the full article from Zan Campbell titled “Joy Under the Shadow”