It Is Good

'Glass Flower' photo (c) 2011, Aaron.Pod - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

I had a truly amazing time at Story. I loved the people who I met and most of the messages that I heard.

But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), I left feeling a little bit conflicted.

The thing I loved the most about the conference was seeing one presenter after another get up and share the excitement that they got from their craft. Watching Isaac Rentz bounce around the stage, sharing his videos, and telling us, “I love this. It’s really good,” awakened something in me that I didn’t even know was asleep.

Being proud of my work.

When I went through The Bad Time, the phrase that stuck with me the most was that I had “a spirit of performance.” This was because I wanted to music to sound good. I wanted the worship team to practice, to give our best efforts, to come prepared. I didn’t want what happened on stage to be a distraction and technical difficulties and poor musicianship can certainly be a distraction. But when we put these ideas into practice and started playing well, out came the accusations. Being good was not okay. Not only was it not okay, but there was probably something a little bit demonic behind it.

Even though I rejected that then and reject it now, nevertheless, a part of that admonition stuck with me. Being good is somehow a negative thing. Fully immersing in the creative act, whatever that might look like to you, is something you need to guard against.

Seeing artists stand up in front of a group of other artists and say, “This is my work and I love it,” was something that I needed to hear.

But there was another message that was said loudly, and it competed with that one.

“Worship the Creator, not the creation.”

Now, this sounds really good. One can’t very well argue with that. The Bible is clear about idols and anything placed over God is an idol. So questioning that bit of wisdom feels very wrong to me.

But I’m totally going to do that.

Not the idea itself. But rather that it’s something that we need to spend a lot of time thinking about.

I mentioned Isaac Rentz because he was by far my favorite presenter. Though he is a Christian, he doesn’t create “Christian art” and, in fact, eschews the notion that art can be Christian. He directed a video about death. He directed a video about a misunderstood monster. He directed a video with no plan at all. There is no faith message in these endeavors. There is no call to the Gospel and they don’t walk through the four spiritual laws.

But they were the result of him reaching beyond his comfort zone and doing something he couldn’t do. They required his full creative energy and as a result, these projects point to God. Not to a neat, tidy, polite God, but to a wildly creative being. A God that refuses boxes and boundaries and rules. A God that understands hurt and pain and hope and love; a God that understands what it is to be human.

When Rentz jumped fully into the creative process, the resulting work pointed to God because creativity comes from God. He didn’t have to think about whether or not he was worshiping the creation or the Creator – the work pointed to the Creator because it originated with him in the first place.

I find it interesting that many who preach the “worship the Creator, not the creation” message will often point to Romans 1:20, which says that creation points to God. But we seem to write ourselves and our creative abilities out of that equation. We are God’s workmanship, but that which we create is so often suspect.

So we hide it and we hedge it. We play make it family-friendly and safe for all ages. We measure it out so we don’t have something that’s worthy of worship, nothing that can get in the way.

And it sticks out and distracts and says that God doesn’t care about art. God doesn’t care about music. God doesn’t care about poetry. God doesn’t care about our hurt and pain and hope and love; he doesn’t know what it means to be human.

But he does. That was the whole point. We are created to point to him.

When we do that – when we create without apology, without fear, without limits – the result will cause those who see it to worship. And whether it is acknowledged or not, that worship will be for the One from whom creativity pours forth.

And we can echo the words of that same One who created first and say, “It is good.”

  • Lisa Taylor

    i also refused to believe that bringing excellence in my gifting was from a performance motive. it is a responsibility – and an awesome (by its classical definition) one. a soldier who puts every bit of energy into perfecting his skill to protect his home and his country is not doing it from a performance motive. we are no different. and why would the crafting of that gift need to be exclusively in the Christian realm? not to say that what we create should be ungodly or denigrating – God forbid! but that we would work to the extent of what God has given us, that we would worship him with our best offering, not our sloppy seconds. do we say that Christian plumbers should only work on churches? do we ask accountants to make all numbers add up to 777? no, we ask them to do their best work and operate ethically so that they show the glory of God in their lives. and so should we say and do that with whatever art or gift we have.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Yeah, it was something that I didn’t believe, but also believed, because it was said by someone that I respected. It’s just a message that is reinforced so often by stuff like this. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve really been able to say AND BELIEVE that it’s total crap. And in so doing, I think I’ve moved even more to a place where my creations are God-honoring. Not always, but more.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-J-Teston/611354012 Michael J. Teston

      Excellence, responsibility, would lead to accountability in all areas . . . exactly . . . it is as true in the creation/creativity arena and true in so much of the rest of overall life and living, and the lack of it in the so called “christian” realm, and specifically in the day in and day out realm is why discipleship is close to dead. Any serious reflection on what one does gets reduced down to “works righteousness.” It leads to what I call a spirit of “sloppy!” And sloppy can become an epidemic which effects the spirit moving us toward what the early church understood as the greatest of all “sins,” or missing the mark as I understand it . . . sloth.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Right on Alise. I hadn’t connected the dots like this, but you’ve really nailed it. When creating works right, it’s not disconnected from the creator.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      I think because I lived with the guilt of that for so long, it’s been on my mind for years. But yeah. This is why stuff that is secular can still point to God, simply by being GOOD. I’m just tired of feeling like I need to apologize if I do something well. Bah!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-J-Teston/611354012 Michael J. Teston

    Excellent.

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com/ Jennifer Luitwieler

    Hold on. Are you saying that when you endeavored to be excellent in your work, you were criticized? Because that is bullcrap. In fact, I’d call that kakamamie bullcrap. Oh yes I would. God does not make junk, neither does he call us to make junk. If we do all to his glory, doesn’t it make sense that we attempt to come as close to perfection as possible? Isn’t striving to be our best, living into our fullness as created creators?

    Sorry for the lesson, but it makes me mad when others try to stifle who we were made to be. Im sorry that has happened to you. Be who you are and create your stories, because that is real and authentic and because you know the Creator, you will point to him. Amen.

    • http://www.alise-write.com Alise Wright

      Oh, it was The Bad Time for a reason. Truly, it’s only been in the past 2 years or so that I’ve been able to shed the garbage that was said to me back then. It creeps up every now and again, but I’m much better now at recognizing it and rejecting it. Which is why, even though there’s a truth to that phrase, I’m pretty quick to say, “Yeah, but!” as a response.

  • http://rawfaithrealworld.wordpress.com/ RawFaith

    One thing I love about teaching music is that kids get so excited when they are learning and when they write their own songs. There is a joy still there in creating. It is ironic that christians who are creative for a living often get those kinds of lectures about God getting the glory etc. I think that God is the ultimate creative being and he loves it when we are creative. I think it’s important for all of us who are creative to work towards excellence and not settle for crap. :)

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    “He didn’t have to think about whether or not he was worshiping the creation or the Creator – the work pointed to the Creator because it originated with him in the first place.” Loved this post, Alise. Thanks for putting into words some of the tension I also felt at Story. Perfect.

  • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

    Ha ha ha! I love freedom! I really, really do. I bet that’s natural in anyone who was bound up as long as I was. Yes, I know this tune.

    We were created in God’s image. God creates. It’s apparently his nature– and therefore ours. He created some weird stuff, that didn’t always *seem* to point to Him. Lucifer, for instance. Adam and Eve. And yet… here we are, with “all creation pointing to him”. Even Lucifer, who constantly points God, if only to accuse and slander him. Even atheists, as they jump up and down in anger because someone prayed at a football game (I really don’t care if we do or not, that’s beside the point here).

    I tried to write stories that “glorified God” in a very overt sense. I really did. And most of them were utter crap. I wrote a lot of stuff that was just fun, and it was much better. And in the end, I realized it glorified God in its own way (sometimes subversive), if only because it was a result of my freedom and creativity, things given me by the most creative being ever.

    If the novels I’m working in get published, I’ll probably get pilloried in some of the Christian press. Given some of the stuff that gets praised, I’ll take that as a good sign.

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    Hummm. I get what you’re saying and I really appreciate that. But I felt like that was something I didn’t anticipate but really needed to hear while I was at STORY. I don’t think that the message was intended to poo-poo our attempts to bring excellence in our craft; I think it was meant to help us center our intentions for excellence on His glory rather than our own. There will always be tension in defining that and living that out, but I think that tension is necessary.

  • http://www.quietanthem.com/ Renee Ronika

    If anyone needs proof of what you’re saying, here it is: Michelangelo, Beethoven, Chekhov. And if they question you because none of these men preached Christ overtly, then just end the discussion with “Bach.”

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