If you have ever created a piece of art - be it a painting, a piece of music, a written work - you will know that it takes work. Lots of work. Occasionally pieces of art may be fuelled by flashes of inspiration and almost complete themselves... but then there is the finishing of the work, the touching up, the refining, and so on.
If you then go on to create more and more works of art, you will know that the work load increases substantially, that it almost seems to get harder and harder the longer you work as an artist. Sure, you are getting better and better at your craft, but for that very reason you are raising the standard of what you expect of yourself, and others are raising the standard of what they expect of you. And then there is the challenge to innovate, to produce something different to what you've done before.
What's more, art by its very nature is seeking to make a statement, and that often attracts criticism, criticism that hurts... And yet there is something inside of us that knows we have to create - we are continually drawn back to creating. This is not a mere coincidence - God has gifted us with creative skills and abilities and it is a wonderful thing to be using them for him.
Although we may not think of it this way, we are creating works of art each time we prepare music for church. Someone else may have written the hymn or song, but we are creating through interpreting the music in our arrangements and playing.
The thing is, creating is hard work. Amongst the busyness of life, it's a struggle to find space for a rehearsal - in both your calendar and in your mind. Then you need to make sure all your musical equipment is in order. Then there are the slight frustrations you may have with the playing styles of other band members - they play slightly differently to the way you do, so the sound isn't gelling. And then you realise you need some new musical equipment before Sunday, so you have to find time to get to the music store. Then you need to find time to practice yourself before the service. And after a long day at work, it's hard to be disciplined and remove distraction, in addition to spending good time loving and caring for your family. And then after all that, you play music at church that Sunday, thinking it went really well and that it was a huge achievement to have overcome all the challenges in the week. And then you receive some unpleasant feedback on how it sounded. Then you brace yourself to do it all again next week. Sometimes it all just seems too hard.
In his book Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer challenges us refocus and remember why it is we are creating. As Schaeffer writes: "[t]he man who really loves God, who is working under the lordship of Christ, could write his poetry, compose his music, construct his musical instruments, fashion his statues, paint his pictures, even if no man ever saw them. He knows God looks upon them." (pp 37-8)
When the work in creating seems hard, and the comments from others about our art seem too disheartening to take, we can pause, take a deep breath, and know that our sovereign God (ever-present and all-knowing) has heard and seen our art - art that has come from the abilities he has graciously given us. And that alone is more than enough reason to make the struggle worth the struggle.GC