A Time for JOY!
As artists of faith, we sometimes get nervous when we realize we are enjoying our art too much. Why? In this episode, Marlita Hill explains how our artistry is for enjoyment, as well as service and communion.
I just came back from a beautiful weekend in the Santa Cruz mountains where I spent several days attending the Creative Arts Retreat with the Salvation Army. While there, I got to facilitate two KAI sessions. In the first one, I met this really cool break dancer. After our session, on the walk over to breakfast, he started to share with me how the session resonated with him because sometimes, when he’s taking class or performing, he struggles with making sure he gives God the glory. He feels bad because sometimes he forgets to give God the glory. I spoke to him about it but the Holy Spirit kept talking to me about it and now I want to talk to you about it.
Talking to this young man made me remember several similar conversations I’ve had with artists who, it seems like, almost feel bad for enjoying their art too much. I find this very interesting. On a side note, one of the by-products of this KAI work that I’m doing with artists is helping them experience and embrace the liberty and the life found in relationship with God. We have reduced relationship with Him to service only, and doing that robs us, and Him, of such deep, joyous, intimate connection that we both desire to have with one another.
So what did the Holy Spirit teach me about this matter? We are artists. As artists, we have artistic and creative gifts. Here’s what He told me: those gifts have been given to us for service, and communion, and enjoyment.
Family, the gifts are for service, communion, and enjoyment. Why are we so reticent, so hesitant, so afraid to simply enjoy God’s goodness to us? You know I like to use real examples, so, to me, it’s like sex. Many times, in the church, we have problems simply enjoying sex, or talking about sex as something that can be simply enjoyed. It is a gift from God. Yes, it is used for service: to procreate. But it’s also for communion, for a man and wife to spend time together and get closer to one another. But, y’all let’s live a little… it’s also for fun. Sex is fun! Why are we so afraid to admit that and embrace itt? We can’t we just admit that it feels so good and we have an amazing time doing it, like God, Himself, didn’t build our anatomy to capture and experience the amazing sensations sex provides?
And like sex, our artistry and our creativity are gifts that, in addition to service, are also meant to simply be enjoyed.
So, let’s dig into this some more.
As Christians, we get ourselves all in knots about this honor and glorifying thing. Yes, honoring and glorifying God are important. We are commanded to do so. It is only right for us to do so. But let me ask you a questions about that:
How much more can a creator be honored than when the thing they created does what it was created to do, and thrives at doing it? It’s like God looks at His dancers and says I created you to dance. When you dance, I’m over the moon because I see my intention, I see my purpose, I see the capacity I put in you materialize before Me. I get joy out of seeing you do what I put in you to do.
I mean, how excited did Belle’s father get in Beauty and the Beast when his machine finally chopped the log and threw it I the pile like He intended, when it finally did what He designed it to do? Why wouldn’t God also get pleasure out of watching His creation do the same? How much more honor could I possibly give my Creator than to participate in His intention for me?
And here’s another question: how happy does it make you to give someone a gift and see them really enjoy the gift you gave them? Like building a jungle gym for your kids. You don’t build that jungle gym for them to complete service. You build it for them to play, and laugh, and have fun in life. You don’t want anything from them in giving it to them. You just knew it would make them happy. And how happy does it make you to watch them flail themselves in sheer bliss all over that jungle gym, without any other care in the world? What good parent who loves their children doesn’t want to see them have things with which they can just be silly sometimes?
Think about that.
Now, let’s talk about these three areas because they are important. But first, let’s make it clear: God invited you to a life together. He did not invite you to a purpose. He did not invite you to a job. He did not reach out to you because He had work for you to do. He did not reach out to you because of your usefulness. And your value to Him has little to nothing to do with your usefulness. He paid the ultimate price just for the opportunity to be with you because He loved you so much, and He did this before you were even cognizant of Him, before you had ever done one, single, solitary thing for Him.
So His love for you has nothing to do with your usefulness or your capacity to be used. He invited you to be His companion in life. And as companions living life together, there will be purposes that need to be stewarded, where you, as companions will tend to that purpose together. And as companions living life together, there will be times that call for you to put to use the gifts and graces and abilities God has equipped you with, and as companions you will dispense those gifts together. And as companions living life together, there will be things in life that God says this is for you. I don’t want anything from you. I just want to give this to you because I love you and I want to see you happy. And in the exchange of a loving, reciprocal relationship, you will return the affection and say God, I give this to you. I don’t want anything from you. I just want you to have this because I love you and I want to be pleasing to you.
That is the environment in which we serve God: within a loving, reciprocal relationship where we make ourselves available to each other because we love and appreciate one another. Your gifts are to serve God, but they are not His mop. You are not His tool. You were created for companionship. And anything that you do for God is to be done within companionship. I imagine a father who buys His son a fishing pole so they can spend time together. And, in the course of them spending time together at the lake, they put the fishing poles to use to catch some fish for dinner.
So you have your art for service. You have your art for companionship. Sometimes, your art is just the way you spend time with God. Whether you’re saying anything or not, just the act of engaging with something He gave you makes you feel His presence and feel so close to Him.
For me, it’s interesting and you may find this applies to you, too. I am a dancer, but dance is not how I spend time with Him. For some people, whatever their art form is, that’s how they spend time with God. Some dancers talk about dancing with God around their house. I don’t do that to spend time with God. Dance is how I serve Him. I spend time Him with this mind He gave me, through conversation, writing, and pontificating. That’s when I feel most alive in communion. In service, it’s dance. In communion, it’s writing and conversation.
Then there is art for enjoyment. Yes, God gave you your gifts to be enjoyed as well. 1 Tim 6:17 talks about God as being one who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Interesting that it didn’t say He gives us all things to use to serve Him, but all things for us to enjoy.
God gave you art and creativity because He also wants you to experience the joy that comes from experiencing and making and sharing art. Jesus said He came to give us life more abundantly, and life more abundantly has to be more than just life for service. Like, think about marriage. If marriage was nothing else, literally nothing else, but cleaning up after someone else, who would want to do it? Like if literally you got no enjoyment, you got no emotional or relational feeding from it, if it was just nothing but duty and service, why would anyone do that … willingly? Even in a marriage, there is time for enjoyment. And think about what happens when that very important element is neglected.
I am convinced that even God participates in sheer, purposeless pleasure. What purpose does the duckbill platypus have? They are not like the honey bee that is necessary for vegetation to continue. It’s just cool to look at. Or the silky chicken. Oh my God…how much joy do I get out of looking at a silky chicken? Y’all ever seen a silky chicken? It’s my new favorite animal. Look it up. They are the coolest bird and they just make my heart so happy. So, God gets joy out of His creation. Not everything in His creation serves Him in the way we think about service. Some of His creation just exists in His goodness, and they live off the goodness He put there to sustain them.
If you’re walking around thinking about your artistry and career life, and all you can think about is how you’re not serving God, you are missing out on the beauty of being in relationship with Him.
I also dance for enjoyment. When I’m taking class, or dancing salsa, or making a new dance, I feel so alive. And I don’t worry one bit about whether I’m glorifying God in it or not. My whole life is oriented to glorify Him. He knows that, even if I don’t itemize every situation in my life to Him every single time I engage in it. That is condemnation in a works mentality. That’s not God.
So from this day forward, I want you to give yourself permission to not feel bad when you just enjoy the sheer, purposeless, pleasure of creating art and being an artist. When I’m taking class, or dancing salsa, I’m not worried about all the other stuff. That time is just about sweat, just raw dancing. It’s God’s gift to me to just sweat it out on that floor. And funny, enough, I do think about God because it feels so good to feel the air pass my skin, sweat dripping off my face, I’m breathing all hard, I got this hard combination, and as a technician, this is just amazing. And in that moment when I feel like my chest is about to burst because of how happy I feel, I can’t help but think about God. And not necessarily as a worshipper (in the confined sense we picture it). Yes, I am a worshipper. My life is a worship to God. Even when I’m just enjoying His awesome gifts, His goodness to me. I don’t feel bad that I don’t do the mantra every time I get to the other side of the dance floor. He knows that I appreciate Him. I have oriented my life towards Him. Everything I do is positioned to honor Him so, again, I don’t have to point that out all the time. I don’t have to itemize when the whole lot has already been given to Him.
Just like I feel super close to God in worship, I feel super close to Him in joy. Because is He not joy? If it gives you life, if it feeds you, if it nourishes you, if it builds you up, if you walk out of that session, that studio, if you step away from that canvas, put that camera down and you feel alive, God is life, what do you mean He wasn’t there just because you didn’t say Lord I give you the Honor. You are honoring Him by doing it, that’s why you feel alive; because you have tapped into life.
TALK TO ME
Why do you think we’re so afraid to just enjoy life in God? What will that experience be life for you? Will it be easy? Is it something you’ll have to remind yourself of, like take deeper breaths? Let me know.