Two weeks ago we posted an open letter from the artist to their worried parents and authority figures. This week, we offer a very similar letter, but with Biblical backing for the spiritual artist. There are many reasons to accept our artistic gifts as spiritual gifts from God, so we hope this helps you connect more with your church-going friends and family!

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Dear parents (and other authority figures),

We know you may not be artistically gifted yourselves. You may not easily understand how we artists think and process life, which is often different (not better or worse) than you. Although you love us, yWe know you may not be artistically gifted yourselves. You may not easily understand how we artists think and process life, which is often different (not better or worse) than you. Although you love us, you may not understand what we need to hear. Just like anyone else, we as human beings are designed to need affirmation that our special giftings — for us it’s our art talents — are valuable and worthwhile.

We know you mean well when you say things like: “You are very smart – why don’t you become a medical doctor or a lawyer? Art is okay, but it’s not really important. Do something valuable with your life. Do something that will make a difference in the world and actually pay the bills.”  To those of us who are designed by God to be dancers or poets or painters or actors, this says that we and our unique talents are not really valuable.

We don’t blame you. The world (our culture) does not validate the arts or artists as important contributors to society. A typical example of this is when a school system’s budget runs short of money, almost always the arts programs are eliminated first. But this is terribly wrong. Our world desperately needs us to communicate through our arts gifts about truth and justice and beauty. Artists do have a significant role to play in recording, and even helping create, positive and life-giving culture in God’s world.

Please encourage us as we explore our role as cultural communicators by helping us identify and learn to express well the spiritual gifts and talents we’ve been given.  We as artists know that it may often drive you a little crazy that we process life — even think — differently than lots of other folks. When faced with a problem to solve, we artists often “see” in our imaginations what could be a great solution, but we may not be as strong at seeing the step-by-step process of getting to that solution.  Sometimes we “right-brained” thinkers get irritated when others who are “left-brained” thinkers challenge the way we think about and process life. But we commit ourselves to pursuing patience instead of irritation. We know we need to partner with more scientific step-by-step people to help create solutions to the world’s problems.  The world does need us sensitive and visionary artists. When art is good, it can help us “see” into the future and help find good and equitable solutions for the many challenges we face. We all need to respect how God has made us. Each of us (including you) have different abilities and talents, and all of us need to have a voice.

So please help us to use our unique artistic voices. The arts often explore deep feelings and emotions — both highs and lows, celebrations and grievings. Contemporary culture around us seems to be more and more hardened to caring about what is going on deep in people’s hearts.  Unresolved anger and anxiety permeate much of life today. One of the purposes of the arts is to dig into these very real problems and bring a deeper understanding of what’s going on. The arts don’t just bring information for people’s minds to process, they bring heart-level communication.  Being an artist is a much-needed, and even sacred, calling.

Please, dear parents and other authority figures, let us be ourselves.  We need you to honor us and our special talents. Yes: we know that we need to find a way to earn a living, but our yearnings to speak out about truth and beauty to the world will always be present in our lives.  We recognize that we’re a little different and sometimes hard to understand, but we have been given a job to do that is very important in today’s world.

This may be a totally new concept for some of you (it was for me once, too), but God gives spiritual gifts to each person, and these gifts are a big part of our identity. Consider these words from James: 

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:16-17

The word every is totally inclusive. Can it be true that everything that is good comes from heaven—a gift to us from God? Yes!

The Greek word used by James to describe our gifts is sometimes translated as “perfect,” but it is also translated as “complete” or “mature.” So this sentence is extremely important. Every good, complete, mature gift we are given comes from God. All good things, in each of us, are a gift from the Father who, James implies, wants to fill us with heavenly light.

We affirm that “every good gift” includes our artistic talents and our imaginations—our ability to make films and sing songs and design buildings. We believe that God has given us special gifts as artists, and that these gifts are good.

What is amazing about a spiritual gift is that the Spirit of God is embedded in it. And if the Spirit of God is involved, it is possible that the use of that gift will have power that comes from outside of ourselves. And this means that we, just like our ancestor Bezalel in Exodus, can be involved in making art that shows the presence of God living in it, changing the hearts of those who experience what we create.

In the Old Testament book of Numbers, Aaron, the older brother of Moses, tells us that there is an important blessing that God wishes each of us to embrace. This is God’s blessing for all of us, both for you and for us, and it says that God will be with us as we live our lives using the gifts that He has given us:

“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. The Lord be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face to you and give you peace.” 

This is The Father’s Blessing that all of us can receive, even if you fail to support our artistic talents. But we hope that you will. God made us, He filled us with gifts, and He fills those gifts with His Spirit when we let Him. We know that God never gives us gifts to frustrate us, but gifts that can be filled with His power, a blessing to both ourselves and others when we use them well. 

We invite you to join us as now as we seek God’s calling in our lives to be artists that spread beauty and truth and social justice and dignity. Your blessing and affirmation bring us freedom to be all that we can be!

With much affection and respect,

An Artist

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Authors: Dick Ryan & Aubrey Leaman

Photo credits: Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash; Marius Masalar on Unsplash; Alejandro Barba on Unsplash; Dan Farrell on Unsplash.

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