In The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus describes life as a work of art. He revisits some of the thought and metaphor that most resonated with me as I read some of his earlier books, like The Barbarian Way and An Unstoppable Force. These ideas have captivated me and haunted me with wonder for the last decade. At times I’ve been tempted to dismiss some of artistic language McManus uses to describe the church and her mission. No… that’s not quite right; I’ve just felt like my life would be simplified if the creative expression of church didn’t make so much sense to me and I could just fall in line with “the way things are done around here.”
See, I don’t live in a cutting edge place like L.A. McManus pastors a church there where he likes to say “the city breathes in the world.” L.A. is a city of artists from every curve of the globe. He’s writing from a cultural center for the whole planet. I live in the cultural center of… umm… never mind. We don’t “breathe in the world”. We feed it. Real, actual food that you can pronounce like corn and beef and pork. We breathe in the funk of feedlots and sugar factories – and the amazing aroma of ammonium nitrate. So, there’s not a lot of appreciation voiced for art as it’s seen as mostly a frivolous diversion from what’s really important: work. There’s always more dirt to be moved or another field to irrigate…
I mentioned going to a local art center to one of my students yesterday. His incredulous reply? “We have an art center?!” Here’s the kicker, though ~ he’s an artsy kind of kid. We were at an art workshop together! I don’t fault him, though. Our culture here has made little of esthetics and beauty, so many see art in general as a waste. It’s just not necessary for survival. It’s unproductive.
But it’s not a waste. There is more to be moved here than dirt and cattle and sugar beets. The weight of humanity struggling under the inertia of fear and insecurity longs to be moved toward a life full of love.
It’s not unproductive. The produce of creativity is no less important than that of a good day’s work. In fact, I’d argue that it’ll exponentially multiply the fruit of a good day’s work and make it a whole lot more enjoyable.
And art is certainly not unnecessary. Imagine a world of all brown… we need art. Not only do we need art, we’re made for it. Each of us is an artist. As the book suggests, the life that we create is our very most important work of art.
I’m ok with the realization that I will never “fall in line with the way things are” ~ because I see what could be. I will continue to choke down whatever seeps to the surface when I hear “we’ve never done it that way” ~ because I know that there are new ways just waiting to be plucked from someone’s imagination.
I am an artist. I paint on the canvas of life from a palette of potential that is waiting to be set free. The best thing is, I know the Artisan whose perfect love does just that and I get to spend time everyday connecting Him to students who so desperately want to be free to create a life that transcends anything they could ever do on their own.
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