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A Time for Art

You can listen to this week’s Devotional here

Author: Kaudie McLean

A little over a year ago, I made the precarious decision to devote most of my work time to making art and in doing so, I’ve foregone a steady income and the sense of purpose and structure that can come with gainful employment. As a result, I’ve had to face some challenges around the place of creativity in my life and in all our lives.

I was fortunate to grow up with parents who were fully supportive of my creative endeavors, never once discouraging me with their concerns about the financial viability of creative careers (though they certainly had them). Even so, it didn’t take me long to figure out that such careers don’t always bring financial security. And though I’ve embraced creativity as part of my sacred call, there’s still a voice in my head that questions giving over so much of my life to artistic pursuits.

One of those voices comes from our culture, which is often all too quick to cut spending on the arts or dismiss arts education in favor of “more important” and certainly more lucrative things. The arts can be portrayed as unnecessary, unproductive, and even frivolous. So it’s no surprise that the cultural voice in my head frequently whispers “Slacker!” when I sit down to create. “Admit it,” says the negativity nag: “You’re just wasting time.”

Lately, I’ve faced another challenge to my creativity: How can I possibly justify making art when there’s so much suffering, so much ugliness in the world? Shouldn’t I be doing something that has a more direct and clear impact on social justice and the alleviation of suffering? Apart from any particular answer, the questions themselves are compelling.

Still, what I’d like to think of as a wiser internal voice asks a counter question: Given how much suffering and ugliness exist in the world, how can I not justify making art? That question, I think, is even more compelling than the others.

If we are created in the image of God, our Creator, then doesn’t it stand to reason that each one of us is also called to creativity, in whatever humble or dazzling form, as participation in the divine life manifest in this world? I think so. And I think that creativity can find expression not just in the so-called arts but in almost everything we do.

In a world that sometimes seems hell-bent on destruction, creating beauty, or just being creative, is an act of holy defiance. It is a refusal to let the greed, belligerence, ugliness, and cruelty of this world hold the day. The beauty of the natural world heals us—I think most of us in Colorado can readily agree on that point—and reflecting that beauty back to a weary world means affirming and working toward the wholeness God intends for us. How could we engage in the hard work of social justice otherwise? Without a sense of wonder and beauty, our souls and bodies become depleted, leaving us less equipped to work for positive change.

I love this quote from Frederick Buechner: The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. Right now, the world is starving for life-giving creativity in our relationships and in our pursuit of solutions to the overwhelming challenges we face. Even small, life-affirming moments of creativity, especially when shared with others, help sustain our common vision for a more loving, wondrous world.

On March 9th, we will be having a mini-retreat to engage in some creative playfulness, with several opportunities to learn about members’ artistry and participate in an artistic exploration that appeals to you. Even if you don’t consider yourself someone who typically makes art or enjoys hands-on creative activities, fear not! We have options for you. Check for details in the weekly emails and bulletins, and save the date to join your church family in nurturing your own and others’ creativity. We need it, we need you, and so does the world.

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