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The Artist Inside of You

A million little ways to embrace your creative gifts and callings

She was 20 when I first saw her, old enough to look up to, but not so old I couldn't relate. I walked into the youth room of Highland Park Baptist Church late that night, and the program had already started. Michigan winters didn't lend themselves to much inspiration, so when I saw her sitting up front leaning against a stool, her deep-set, mysterious eyes holding more stories than she ought to know at so young an age, I knew something was about to happen.

Her generosity was palpable. She picked up her guitar, her small frame nearly disappearing behind it, and began to sing. Her lyrics dripped heavy with questions and faith and love and longing.

She didn't just sing notes. She sang story.

I came undone.

Listening to Sarah Masen sing that night, the winter before I turned 18, I thought it was her voice and her talent that touched me so deeply. I was aware of a mysterious movement within me, but I was unable to define it. And so I did what most people do: I wished more than anything to have a talent like hers. I grieved the fact that my singing voice was average, my painting skills didn't exist, and my dancing was limited to jerky, stiff cheerleading moves.

I had heard talented musicians before. But this time was different. She offered herself honestly and beautifully, sharing something from within her laced with courage and hope. She showed me beauty and woke up a longing in me to take part in it. The beauty she shared was, quite simply, herself. And in sharing herself, she showed me a glimpse of the glory of God.

Discovering the art of everyday living

Sarah introduced me to a shadow of my true self, and touched something in me that was there but was sleeping. That's what artists do. They pull back the covering on our inner life, allowing us to see things beneath the surface, things that, without their compassion, creativity, and generosity, we may have missed.

The song lyric.

The exchange between actors on the screen.

The image of Paris in the snow.

The tuning of the strings before the show.

Art coming from honest hands shows us beauty, stirs up longing, and touches us deeply.

But what about this:

The extra care the cashier takes with your order, the way she looks you in the eye, asks how you are, if you need help or a price check, as if her work is important and she knows it.

The teacher who makes history come alive, telling stories filled with facts and truth and background, while students learn without even realizing it.

How many times have we been rushing through the day, weary from the world, grieving a loss we didn't even know we were grieving, and all it takes is for a stranger to offer to carry our bags from the baggage carousel to the curb and we break down as if they offered to buy us a house or bring our loved ones back from the dead?

Maybe you are a person who thinks art is for other people. Maybe you can't imagine God having art in mind when he made you. Maybe you doubt the connection between the work you do with your hands and the story you are telling with your life.

All of that has a particular time and place, right? Art is for a certain type of person doing a certain type of thing.

Art isn't for you. Is it?

Could it be true that you, too, are an artist?

Maybe you have a dream or a desire to move into the world, something you're always talking yourself out of. Or maybe you wish you had a way to influence others but you don't think you do.

You were born to make art.

Have you noticed how God does things?

Have you considered the way he colors the sky? Or the smallest details in the blades of grass or grains of sand beneath your feet?

Is he only a God of right answers and right angles and acceptable behavior?

Have we exalted the will of God and the plans of God above God himself?

He does not manage us, to-do list us, or bullet-point us. He loves us. Is with us. And believing him feels impossible, until we do, like a miracle, like lukewarm water turning merlot red right there in the cup. And hope sprouts new, because God doesn't give us a list. He invites us into the story.

Your life as a canvas for God's glory

God is not a technician. God is an Artist.

This is the God who made you. The same God who lives inside you.

He comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.

That's why there's freedom, even in the blah.

Hope, even in the dark.

Love, even in the fear.

Trust, even as we face our critics.

And believing in the midst of all that? It feels like strength and depth and wildflower spinning; it feels risky and brave.

It feels like redemption.

It feels like art.

Perhaps we could say that being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive. Art means believing that the God who created the world with words alone creates with words still, through us—whether it be on a stage to thousands or in a corner with one.

Maybe you make paintings, or maybe you make pie. Maybe you live confidently in the midst of scary situations. Maybe you are brave enough to listen, to wait, to trust. Maybe you see potential in situations and in people that others aren't able to see.

Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are. You have the power to influence, to move, to make, to become.

You have the capacity to perform the human act of making art, of doing work that comes from deep within you and touches something deep within me.

We make art with our lives.

When a mother who thought she had no voice begins to realize her voice matters, a student who believed he was biding his time to live life for real begins to discover the life in today, a writer begins to tell her story, a servant opens his hands, and a believer finally believes—art comes out.

When we live free, we are able to give freedom. When we live loved, we are able to give love. When we are secure, we are able to offer security. God reveals himself through every artist, and the artist is you.

The question isn't who is the artist? The question becomes, who are you?

Coming alive

Jesus reminds us we are art and empowers us to make art. There isn't only one right way to do the job of glorifying God. There are many ways, a million little ways, that Christ is formed in us and spills out of us into the world. Knowing you are a poem doesn't confine you to be artsy, it releases you to be you. We are art, every one of us. No matter our personality, skill, talent, or inclinations. The essence of being human is that we were made by design with the hands of the Divine Artist.

Christ came to reestablish our identity, showing us what it means to be fully alive as a human—how to live on earth as we were intended to live—a life of complete dependence on the Father. He lived as an exact representation of his Father as he fulfilled the law, saved the world, made wine in water pots and blind men see. He lived as a son, a brother, a friend, a teacher, a carpenter, and a savior.

He took walks and spoke with prostitutes and told stories. He fished.

He laughed.

He wept.

He did all of this in the energy and by the leading of his Father.

But he didn't do all of that so we would have an image to copy. He sent his Spirit to live within us to empower us to be fully alive ourselves. He continues to do all of those things now through us—the will of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son, the energy of the Spirit—the creation work of the Trinity never stops. God is on the move.

But he is not invisible. As long as there are people on earth, the world will have glimpses of God. He chooses us to move through. He chooses your personality, your spunk, your passion, your strengths, and your weaknesses to work in and through and with.

Christ still moves around in the world through the filter of your you-ness.

And so the meaning of our lives is not dependent upon what we make of it but of what he is making of us. As we begin to grasp what that means, the words of God and the truth of Christ become less like words to live by and more like truth to live into.

What makes us come alive goes deeper than what we choose to do in our professions and our free time. What makes us come alive is life, and this life is Jesus. Painting, cooking, parenting, calculating, and conversation all have the potential to hold within them a mystery and an expression of our life in Christ. This is the kind of art that combines the outward work of our hands with the inner workings of the soul and spirit, woven together, whole and complete and equally important. Like the tree that grows where it's planted, we need not launch a search party to discover who we are. Stay right where you are, as you are, complete in your identity as an image bearer, and reach up your arms to God.

Adapted from A Million Little Ways. Copyright 2013 Emily Freeman. Used by permission of Revell. Emily Freeman is the author of A Million Little Ways and Grace for the Good Girl. Connect with Emily online on her website where you'll find her blog, Chatting at the Sky.

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