The Christian artist bears the same yoke and burden as do all other Christians. It is the yoke of service:
- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
To enjoy the comforts of Jesus entails bearing the yoke and burden of Jesus. Of what does this burden consist? Jesus defined it as a burden of love:
- Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
What does it mean to love God? It means that we are no longer our own. We belong to God and must live that way in every area of our lives:
- I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Love means that my passions, desires, and inclinations can no longer be number 1. Instead, He must be (Mat. 6:33)! We have not been called to cosmic singleness but to connectedness, to a relationship characterized by other-centered-ness and a yoke that is easy and a burden light.
Consequently, it's not about being me. Nor is it about being true to my feelings or vision. Instead, it's about being true to a higher, more glorified vision, one of serving the Master of all creation.
Nor is it about denying my feelings, but it's about seeing how my feelings – even the messy ones - can be redeemed, yoked into service for His glory (and consequently, my edification).
This means that art is not the venting of feelings but the shaping of feelings. It is the recognition that my feelings do not have the first word. Instead, they provide the raw materials or components for our Lord’s masterpiece (Eph. 2:10). At its highest, art is not simply a product of imagination but a plugging into something beyond ourselves. It therefore requires vision and responsiveness.
Here’s how I have seen this happening in my own life. When I came to Christ, I came bearing my feelings and self-righteous baggage. I had to be someone of significance. I therefore had convinced myself that I was better than others – more intelligent, creative, and even worthy of God. Even after I was embraced by my Savior, I was convinced that He chose me because I was more spiritual than others. Consequently, when I’d experience setbacks – even spiritual setbacks – this made me resentful and jealous of others, who I perceived were doing better than me.
However, I had become addicted to the idea that I was better and worthier than others and fought to preserve it. I was locked in a battle against myself and also everything that God was showing me about myself. The more I saw how unworthy I was of anything that came from God, the more depressed and embittered I became. Internally, I was thrashing about.
My venting was angry, genuine, and raw, but it was also blind – blind to myself and what was motivating me, blind to God, and blind to others. I refused to let go of the self-righteous drug and other self-serving ideas that kept me from seeing. I had a log in my eye (Mat. 7:1-5), blinding me from myself and even whatever I created.
Can we create when we are blind? When we fail to recognize our motivations – those driving, imperialistic, and unseen forces? Perhaps, but do we want to merely create in the basement of our feelings, or do we also want to take them onto the penthouse elevator and up to where we can view the panorama?
What enables us to take in the panorama and to see with clarity? Truly accepting who we really are! But how can we face the ugliness – our self-strivings, self-serving thinking, self-righteousness, and our shameful self-centeredness? (And we must accept these things and laugh in their face. Without this, we are blinded by the internal turbulence of our vain attempts at self-justification, an obsessive struggle to prove ourselves.) Only through the Gospel – understanding how beloved and valuable we are apart from all of the external forms of validation for which we endlessly strive! But how does this understanding become real for us?
For one thing, we – our speaking, our thinking, and even our art - must be entirely committed to His service! Why? Well, when we aren’t, and we don’t confess our sin, then we will harden our hearts through rationalizations and denials, thereby building a wall between His transforming grace and us.
I had built a fortified barrier against the Lord. After years of battle, it fell. It was painful to face my internal uglies and to admit that I didn’t deserve anything good from my Savior, but it was liberating to find that I no longer needed my fortifications and the endless struggle to maintain them. I was now free to see, to laugh, and to be.
Our minds can be like a perfectly calm lake that precisely reflects the rocks and trees on the other side. We can likewise apprehend the surrounding world when we are at peace – a peace that can only come from the Gospel, a peace only available to those who take upon themselves the yoke of our Savior.