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Campus Blog

Fear, Faith, and Failure as an Artist...and Hope for the Rest of Us, Too!

Lori Mcmillan

All creation reflects something about the creator, and I believe the best art comes from deeply personal places.

Visual art students mold, paint, sculpt, draw, or design their hopes, dreams, and desires. And it’s due next week. On Tuesday, they will put their souls on display as professors and classmates tell them how right or wrong their creations are.

Mastering techniques and learning concepts are important and are a necessary process in education. However, if you are studying math and you make a bad grade on a test, no one has to know. It can be kept private and isn’t tied to you as a person.

Artists do not get that luxury. Artists are often quietly living and dying by the criticism they receive about their work. They want recognition that their work is good and worthy. Walking through the creative process can feel like a steep, steady hike, and artists wonder if the destination will have a view worth all of the trouble.

Don’t we all though?

Maybe your work or studies are not exposed and openly critiqued by others, but I think we would all agree that we are tempted to live for the approval of man.

We want our parents and mentors to be proud of the choices we make. We want our peers to deem us fun and free and interesting. We want to be accepted and understood.

Our days are made of tiny little creations, pictures on Instagram, clothes we wear, our contribution to the conversation with friends over lunch. In a subtle, unseen classroom, we are propping up our creation and biting our nails as the professor begins to evaluate.

But there is good news for artists, and for the rest of us. The gospel for every created one is this: we are not judged based on what we have done.

If we see ourselves first as creators, trying to crank out something that will make our lives measure up, we are not accepting the new, fleshy, healthy heart that God wants to give us. But, if we see ourselves first as creation—new creation—declared good by God through Christ’s sacrifice, we are saved from performance.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10

Christians are God’s workmanship. The word workmanship can mean fabric: something you use to create. After all, God first introduces Himself in the Bible as a creator. He is the ultimate and perfect artist. He puts Christ on display in our lives and declares us holy. The question is, will I actively trust in this truth?

I want to push the artists in my life to walk in the good works He has prepared, knowing that they have been declared clean, worthy, and free. I want for us to create, teach, lead, or plan knowing that we are fully and undeservedly God’s workmanship.

Critique is a necessary part of the artistic process but, by God’s grace, our lives are not declared worthy by other humans. Our lives were purchased by Christ.

So, if you know a Christian artist, encourage them with these truths (and buy them a copy of Art for God’s Sake by Philip Ryken).

Pray for them to see themselves first as a canvas covered in Perfect Beauty.

Help validate their role as ones who would point the rest of us to the Supreme Creator.

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