As a Jesus-follower I believe that God has a good plan for my life. Did you catch that? God has a plan. But how do I know what that plan is? How do I know what God is calling me to do on a daily basis?
This article shares what I have come to believe in my own life. I look forward to having an open discussion with you about these ideas in the comments below!
This may be a completely new concept for some of you. And yet, in my experience, hearing from God is crucial for artists to communicate through their artwork in a way that will change people’s lives. But how does anyone “hear” from God and how does a person know it’s really God who is speaking?
Let’s begin with some important questions. Who is this God that we so much need to hear from? What is He like? What does He care about? For us artists, the first question about God’s identity will probably be, “Is God creative?” The very first words of the Bible provide the answer:
“In the beginning, God created . . .”Genesis 1:1
In the very first sentence, the fifth word of the entire Bible, God is identified as a creator.
“Is God an artist?” Just look around! Yes, it is obvious to me that God is an artist! The incredible beauty of nature is a stunning showcase of countless colors, intricate patterns, and unique forms that make up plants and animals. If God was not interested in art, He would have been happy to create just one type of bird. Instead, we have blue jays and cardinals and parrots and eagles and hummingbirds. God’s creativity produced an enormous variety of flowers and fish and animals as well as mountains and lakes and forests of astonishing beauty.
My talented friend Jenny Vaughn Hall asked and answered these next two questions:
1. What did God do with His amazing creations?
He gave them all to us human beings. God simply said, “I give you”…all plants and animals. He instructed us to live in His amazing creation—His garden—“to work in it and take care of it.” This is extremely important: God freely gives us His precious works of creative art.
2. What did God do when we disobeyed Him?
As the story progresses, we humans were not satisfied with being freely given the whole earth, and we chose to be “like God” by eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
“Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He (Adam) answered, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”Genesis 3:7-9
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”Genesis 3:21
I don’t know about you, but this is not what I would have expected. God’s kids disobey Him and He doesn’t punish them? Instead, God comes “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” I don’t understand this, but somehow God knows everything in the future and the past, so He already knew that His kids had disobeyed Him. And yet, He calls out to them, “Where are you?” He still wants a relationship with His kids, regardless of their poor choice of wanting to be “gods” themselves.
In Genesis, God’s response to these bad choices is astonishing. He kills some of His own beautiful artistic creations and uses their skins to cover Adam and Eve’s shame—their nakedness. We don’t know if the animal God killed was a cheetah or a buffalo or an anteater. But we do know that He killed something that He truly liked, something He personally made with His own hands.
“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”Genesis 1:31
God killed something that He Himself had created and gave it to us humans to cover our naked shame.
What does this story mean to us artists today? First, God creates amazing gifts and freely gives them to us. Second, God cares more about us, His kids, than He cares about His own artistic creations. To God, people are more important than art.
So what does this say about who God really is?
God models what an artist made “in His image” should be. God is a servant-artist, who gives away what He creates. Can I be like that? Can I choose to give my art to others, instead of clutching it to myself, using it to prove I’m good?
God also models that He cares more about people than He cares about His own art. Can I be like that? Rather than serving myself through my work, can my motivation as an artist be to bless others?
It bears repeating: when I say one of our goals as artists is to “give art to others,” I’m not suggesting that we should not get paid. I firmly believe that God values our artwork and that He wants us to have appropriate monetary reward for our efforts, just like any other kind of work. But I do believe God created us as artists to serve the world with the beauty and truth of our creations.
Because God values servanthood, if we want to hear from Him about self-serving projects we’re working on, we will probably hear very little. But when we ask Him to speak to us about how to use our communication gifts to serve others, the chances of hearing from Him radically improve.
God is on our side and is ready to engage with us. Our God wants us to live fully and fruitfully, and He yearns to speak to each of us in order to show the good plan He has for each of our unique lives. The amazing God we want to hear from is like us—He totally understands us—because He is an artist too.
The biggest actual challenge in hearing from God, at least for me, is to remember to listen. My knee-jerk reaction to almost anything is to quickly do something, to fix the problem, to plan, to think of a solution. But over the years I have been able to begin the practice of listening first. God has a good plan for everything and anything that might happen in my life. My job is to remember, on a regular basis, to give Him space and time to tell me about His plan.
What does this habit look like practically? Let’s say I have an hour to work on something. For some it could be an hour in a practice room or in front of a canvas or in a dance studio. My new habit is to spend the first couple minutes reminding myself that God is present with me. And then I give Him permission to speak to me—even to interrupt me—during the next hour. I also thank Him for caring about me. This simple process could also be done before a performance or a meeting and will only use up a small percent of the hour.
How do we hear from God as artists?
The bottom line is this: God wants us to experience Him. If we listen and invite Him into every corner of our lives as servant-artists and as people, “the peace that the world cannot understand” will flood into our work and our lives, and God will lead us forward in our calling.
Looking for more? Don’t hesitate to contact us and follow the blog for more information about how to find freedom as servant-artists!
Photo credits: Emery Meyer on Unsplash; The New York Public Library on Unsplash; Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash; Yogendra Singh on Unsplash; Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash