“So…what did you think?” I tucked myself as far back into my chair as the cushion would allow, my palms clammy and my heart throwing itself against my ribcage like I’d forgotten to ask for decaf in my latte. On the outside, I sat perfectly still. Not blinking, not breathing. Waiting.
My professor smiled, a picture of confidence and ease. The polar opposite of me. Finally, she spoke, “I like it. We have some work to do, but your story is really good.”
I exhaled, chin trembling, and smiled back.
It was the first time I’d handed one of my novels to someone other than a family member. As a Creative Writing major, I’d had poems peer-reviewed, short stories critiqued and scripts read. I’d received negative and positive feedback before. But not on something this big. Not on what felt like my heart itself.
You may tweet your disagreement at me and insist this doesn’t include you, but I’m convinced we all have creativity inside of us, whether that looks like writing novels, painting portraits, photographing nature, building websites, teaching children or decorating cakes.
Why? Because we’re sculpted by a creative Creator. We have our Designer’s fingerprints pressed into our very souls. Scripture tells us we’re made in the image of God – the Imago Dei. We are made in God’s image to make God’s name known among the nations. Though we are all made equally as reflections of His nature, we image that nature uniquely.
I’ve always felt the most alive and the most connected to my Creator when I’m writing. Maybe you get that when you sculpt or draw or compose or [insert your gifting here].
But from a young age, we learn to play the comparison game. We have to look a certain way, act a certain way, be a certain way. And lumped into all of that, we start to believe we have to create a certain way. That starts to wear on us.
As a kid, it didn’t feel vulnerable to act out the plays I wrote with my sisters in front of my parents. When I wrote a country love song at age seven (watch out, CMAs, I’m coming…), I unabashedly sang those lyrics at the top of my lungs in front of a camera. One time when I was ten, I wrote a poem about how a cloudy sky looked like “a dark, lonesome valley shattered by pain” and how we can find redemption in Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
I was a deep church kid.
I used to be really good at listening to that whisper inside of me that said, “You were made for this. Keep going.” But then as I grew, I started listening to the world. I started comparing myself to the creativity of others. My work no longer felt special…I was just one little dreamer in a whole, wide world of creativity.
I’m going to take a wild guess and assume you’ve felt some of this before, too. Whether your creativity is your source of income, or you’ve always had this dream of making something that matters, here’s what we have to remember:
Your creativity is a gift to give back to God.
When we use our creative nature to respond to who God is and what He’s done for us on the cross, we’re worshiping. We’re actively adoring the One who wired us with a drive to communicate through our art. Obediently using these gifts brings Him glory. Every time we create, we have the opportunity to say, “Here is my love, Lord. This is me, recognizing all that You are and responding with the gifts You’ve given me. Be glorified in all of this.”
Your view of the world is unlike any other.
I used to get discouraged every time I thought of how Scripture says “there’s nothing new under the sun” (thanks for that, Ecclesiastes). But when we fix our eyes not on what we see in front of us, but on what is eternal, we draw inspiration from the One who made the sun.
After all, He is the only One who can create matter out of nothingness. He’s the only One who can breathe life into dust and hope into a weary soul.
Because of this truth, you, a fearfully and wonderfully made creation knitted together by God from the very beginning of your existence, view your surroundings from a one-of-a-kind vantage point. No one intakes the vibrant colors of Fall or the vastness of the Grand Canyon in the same way. No one has quite the same relationship with our Creator like you do. Your prayers, your ways of declaring who God is come from the One who spoke the universe into existence.
Success is found in saying yes.
When my first book came out, people inevitably started asking about its success. I never know how to answer questions like that, and statistics stress me out (Creative Writing major, remember?). So I started saying, “As long as one person starts to think about God for the first time or in a new way, the book is a success.”
As honorable as that answer may sound, I’ve recently come to realize that if I’m not careful, I’m still basing success in other people’s response to my art.
Yes, I so want for God to use my work to call people to Himself. That is my prayer with every sentence I write. But I’ve recently started saying and believing this: “God, I’m making this in response to who You are and what You have done for me. I’m giving this gift back to you. If you are glorified in it, I’m successful.”
Everyone may not be speechless when they behold what we’ve made, as much as our prideful human hearts may want that. But if we’re measuring our success based off God’s name being made known through art that honors Him, it’s okay if not everyone “gets it.” Our job is to be faithful. His job is everything else.
See, our art isn’t about us, no matter how uniquely we’re gifted. It has always been and always will be about the One by whom and for whom all things were created.
What a humble calling, to be invited to participate in the world in such a way that points to the design of a God who gave His Son so we could be His children. To pour out our lives in ways that creatively and uniquely show the world who He is.
We get to create Christ-centered culture, whether we spell out the Good News of Jesus, or weave in glimpses of the Divine. Whether we tell fiction that points to truth, or we write transparent, heart-heavy poetry like David.
Regardless of how adequate you may feel, your art is a call to the Creator in you – to the One who makes everything beautiful in its time. So respond to that whisper in your soul that declares, “I made you for this” with “Thank You.” Sing your lyrics at the top of your lungs, paint the cotton candy sky with grand, sweeping brushstrokes on canvas. Write poems of praise, fill the stage with conviction, tell your story with every ounce of passion you can muster.
Share the best news the world will ever hear in the way you were designed to tell it.
You were made for this.