I've had my hands in wet clay forever. The act of creating something out of nothing is indescribable. It is both good and right. I lose myself. Time stops. Space disappears.
I build from the base up, attaching, tearing away, pressing, adding texture. The clay grows into form under my hands. The clay cooperates or it doesn't...choosing its own path, way, shape. In some mystical way, it talks to me in dreams and in process. Pottery is a collaboration.
The best potter exerts control...but in a loving and gentle way. The best potter listens to the clay. And the best potter knows when to stop. (One of the most difficult lessons to learn.)
I wonder what God must have felt when He created us from dust. That love. That grace. That desire to share. That desire to tell a story, the story. “It is good.” In a childlike way, I understand and identify. “I made that...and it's good,” I dare to think, with a slight nod and a smile. It's the smile of both the Creator and a creator.
I can't forget walking into my church's (Northland) new sanctuary the first time. There was that “new church” paint smell. I looked around, noting, pointing at and admiring every little thing. But what caught my eye and kept it was a large painting in the foyer above the sanctuary entrance. It wasn't a Sunday school illustration. It wasn't even of Jesus. It was an abstract...reminding me of birds in flight. I teared up. What I felt then in that moment was a sense of gratitude, welcome and inclusion. I felt understood.
Why haven't artists always been welcomed into the church, the community of believers? They are out of the box, unpredictable and simply cannot be controlled (reminds me of the Holy Spirit, the artist's source and inspiration). In fear and caution, to her great detriment, the church closed its doors and the artists walked away.
Artists are finally being welcomed into the church, not as “add-ons”—pandered to, doing their thing off in the corner or down a dark hallway—but as active participants in worship and teaching.
Like the Wise Men approaching the Christ Child, they bring valuable gifts.
Truth. An artist is a truth-teller. And all truth really is God's truth. Truth can be beautiful, shocking, surprising and even quite ugly. It may be tempting to turn away from its rawness, but the artist gently pulls your chin back and whispers in your ear, “Look. See. Really see. Be open. Let it challenge/impact/change you.”
Story. An artist tells a story—through clay, paint, words, music, dance—of all of life. Sin. Loss. Pain. Meaning. Love. Sacrifice. Redemption. Nature. Relationship. All the stuff of life. Nothing excluded. Nothing barred.
Grace. An artist is a witness, not to simple propaganda about God but to grace...God Himself.
It would do us all well to pay attention.