Artists in particular can struggle with their identity. If our performance is good, the world says that we are good. But the opposite is also true. If our performance is not good, the world says that we are not good. Thankfully, this isn’t the only way to live! God wants our performance to become a reaction to our identity instead of what defines it: a right-side-up pyramid kind of life instead of an upside-down one.
Once we realize that there are places in our life that are “shaky” (upside-down pyramid), how do we get rid of those feelings? What are some simple, practical ways to unload our very real fear of failure, anxiety, or negative competition? To be clear: there is nothing wrong with having a moment of fear or insecurity or anxiety — these are natural reactions to what’s going on around us. But the problem gets very serious very quickly if we don’t process those feelings — resolve them — and keep them from haunting us for weeks or even years. When this happens, negative feelings become part of our identity and can frustrate our desire for freedom and creativity.
A big part of getting rid of those feelings and becoming like the stable pyramid is telling God what we need. But what does that actually look like, and how important is it really? A story about Jesus can help answer these questions:
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’”
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.Mark 10:46-52, NIV
This amazing story is full of surprises. First, Jesus chooses to stop and bless Bartimaeus. This man who was blind from birth and at the very bottom level of society was begging on the street. Everybody told him to shut up, but Jesus stopped to talk to him.
Then, another surprise. When blind Bart responds to Jesus’ call, he left his cloak behind. A historian has pointed out to me that Bart probably lived in that cloak. He likely slept in it and kept his food and money and whatever other possessions he had in it. Leaving it behind was shocking.
Maybe the biggest surprise is that Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer seems obvious for a blind man. But Jesus asked the question anyway.
What do you want God to do for you?
Unless we know what’s wrong in our lives, it’s hard to answer that question. It’s certainly all right to pray generic prayers like “Please fix me up, Lord” or “Just bless me.” But if we are really honest with God—especially about our mistakes and our wounds—He will often be much more responsive when we clearly tell him our needs.
I believe that God is asking each of us today “What do you want me to do for you?” And if we want healing (“spiritual cement”) poured into us, we have to respond as honestly as Bart did. Being in denial about what’s wrong actually separates us from God’s healing power.
Many people don’t know what to ask God. They cannot clearly state what’s wrong. They may have symptoms, but they can’t define the root cause of the symptoms. I’m guessing that Bart felt enormous frustration and fear for the future, but the obvious felt need, the cause underneath his frustration, was his lack of sight.
I’ve talked with so many artists who complain about the constant stress they carry. It’s fine to pray, “Dear Lord, please remove my stress.” But if the person can zero in on what’s causing the stress, God’s response can eliminate the root cause.
An example might be a painter who has not been able to sell his or her work and is ashamed because of it. More specific prayers for the painter might be: “God, show me how to get rid of the shame I’m feeling.” Or “God, please restore my trust in You.” Or “God, please show me how to eliminate the fear of failure I’m carrying.” These prayers all connect to a core insecurity, not just a quick fix.
What do we learn from this?
Blind Bart had faith that Jesus could help him, and he unashamedly proclaimed his faith in public. He was willing to leave his cloak behind—a very real symbol of leaving his unwanted identity as a blind beggar. Finally, Bart knew exactly what he wanted Jesus to do for him.
It is a crucial step in developing a healthy identity to be honest about our wounds and our mistakes. I have a close friend who pointed out to me that most mental health problems do not come from people having bad experiences, but from people trying to hide from those experiences.
Artists: name the pain, figure out what’s causing it, and pray that God would take away the root cause.