This is a 3-part series exploring the journey of wholeness in our lives as we follow Jesus. In Part 1 (Spiritual Life) we saw how God desires to use every aspect of our lives (mind, body, emotions, relationships, work, art, play, finances) to grow us to become more like Him. Here in Part 2, we’ll be exploring the dimensions of our creative work.
It is tempting to think of our creative work merely in terms of output; what is it that I am creating and putting out into the world? This is where my mind initially goes at least. And while this is of course essential, I don’t think it’s the most important thing.
Carrying our theme through from Part 1, the most important thing is not what you are achieving with your creative work, but how God is forming you, the person you are becoming, and the lives you are touching in the process of your becoming.
This is the work of a lifetime, and it’s helpful to know where you’ve been, where you are currently, and where you are headed. Is your art like a dried up creek needing water, a flowing stream, or a great river carved out by years of diligent, patient, and serene submission to forces greater than yourself?
In the spirit of submitting to these slow happy currents, here are 7 essential pillars to create a lifetime of soul-shaping artistic work:
1. Invite God into your process
This is the most important work you’ll do. And if you forget, know that He already is with you! First and foremost, your identity is as a child of God, redeemed by Jesus, loved by the Father, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. If you would like to read deeper on this topic, pick up a copy of The Longing by Grove founder Joey O’Connor. You can access The Longing for free here.
2. Get into community
We are not meant to do this alone, and God works wonders when we are living relationally with Him and others. When we are in community, we learn how to be vulnerable, how to gain support, how to give support and how to move in the direction of our God-given dreams, together. For further reading, check out Why It’s Impossible to Create Without Community, and stay tuned for Part 3 of this series exploring the role of community.
3. Get clear on your purpose
When you lack clarity, you wander aimlessly. Tune into what lights you up and go for it. Each day is precious, and life is short. Remind yourself of your purpose not just once, but every day. Remember that what you do matters. Have God remind you. Have others remind you, and remind others of theirs. At the end of your life, how do you want to have used your creative gifts? At this end of this year, what would you have liked to create?
4. Create a sense of urgency
Get into action fueled by joy, peace, gratitude, purpose and love. Create a consistent weekly rhythm. Get started and keep starting, day after day. Give yourself the gift of targets, deadlines, commitments and enjoy the process of fulfilling them. See our post The Work of Creating vs. Everything Else for further inspiration and encouragement.
5. Accept your imperfections, and make peace with failure
You’re going to fail, and that’s ok! This is an inescapable part of what it means to create and put yourself out there. Make peace with one limitation or failure today. It might sound like this: “I accept that it didn’t turn out as expected” Or “I accept that not everyone liked it.” When you practice doing this, you will activate your creative superpowers, because you’re creating from a place of freedom rather than fear.
6. Show your work, build your community and get feedback
This is the fun, scary and exhilarating part that usually stops us in our tracks. Where all our fears and excuses show their ugly faces. So, naturally, it’s the only path forward. Remember, we all experience the same fears, so we might as well all learn to forge ahead together. What’s on the other side? Only courage, growth, confidence, connection, wisdom, humility, and the immense pleasure of knowing you are on the right path.
The list above is incomplete without the soul-forging power of celebration. When we don’t acknowledge the good, it quietly vanishes, almost as if it never occurred. With boldness and alacrity, take full and wild ownership of the good, or if that spirit isn’t available to you in the moment, let it settle on you gently like the wind. Either way, create a quiet space where you can consistently celebrate the graced good that has come your way, that fills your days and creative work. It may look like journaling, a short prayer, a leisurely walk, or a speaking-out with those closest to you.
Each of the above 7 pillars is a life-giving discipline unto itself. In reading through each, is there one in particular that is speaking to you and calling you the most? Where are you finding an invitation this season to step further into the calling of your creative work?