How Love Transforms Your Creative Process
Beyond all else, it is essential for you to see how love transforms your creative process. Beyond your training and technique, beyond the fear of cynics and the joy of success, lies a deeper source of joy and imagination. You may respond, ‘but I was never taught this in the studio, film academy, or in the rehearsal space.’ Indeed, that is often true, and that is the reason you lack the joy, hope and imagination God created you to experience. Too many students of art, cinema, theater, animation, design and music are not taught the essential thing an artist must possess if they are to be life-giving and God honoring throughout their career. This essential foundation is a love-driven creativity. It is the essence of what art and creativity are all about, according to the one who gave you this desire to create. Consider the wise words of the great artist Chagall,
“Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing at all”
– Marc Chagall
Consider celebrated filmmakers, musicians and artists of recent years and you will notice that love (aside from romantic love) is rarely the point. Or consider professors in top universities today. Love will not be the centerpiece of their methodologies. Rather, you will find substitutes dressed in ideals that lead us away from love.
What do we find instead? The ‘greatest good’ proffered is often the approval of your tutors, acceptance by the elites, awards and accolades… or simply fame and wealth. In some cases, these schools promote art as an instrument of revolution or political activism. To be fair, there is nothing wrong with fame, approval, or utilizing art to encourage people to pursue justice. The problem is that achieving these goals will not satisfy your heart, deepen your faith, nor increase your inspiration.
Your primary motivation, as a Christian, is always to be love. Scripture does not leave this as ambiguous. The greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. All of life falls under these two commandments, including your art, your patrons, your audience and therefore your entire creative process.
Love of God and Your Creative Process
When our lives are built on the foundation of a love for God, subtle changes take place within our hearts and our lives. Bit by bit, we will begin to develop a deeper understanding of ourselves, a humility about our work and a graciousness toward our colleagues. This is a process which is often slow, and requires intention, but the benefits are immeasurable. When we seek to ground our life and our gifts in a love of God, we can begin to see profound benefits:
• Greater risks can be taken when we are rooted in love, because love pushes aside the fear that held us back (1 John 4:18). Confidence replaces insecurity, while our fear of mistakes, imperfection and error are replaced with a fresh boldness.
• Greater inspiration can be found when we are rooted in love, because we see how a spark of God’s creativity is the very spark of our imagination. (Gen 1.27) As we understand the profound mystery of being made in the Image of God, we can stand in awe of God, and in gratitude for our creative desires.
• Greater desire to love others through our gifts, out of thanksgiving for the gifts God has given us (John 13:34). The natural reaction to receiving any significant gift is to thank the one who gave it to you. In God’s economy, this becomes an opportunity to love others as he has inspired and commanded us to do.
Love of Self and Your Creative Process
Our culture is obsessed with self-actualization and self-acceptance. These are mere facades which can never satiate the desires of the human heart. What we each need is an understanding of the love God has for us, as his children. This is where we must set our hope. Once you have anchored your identity in the love of God, you can begin to see yourself as His beloved.
This is not a whipped-up self-love, or a love based in the acceptance of colleagues, family or friends who may change their affections with the winds. In a world where so many struggle with shame, guilt and self-loathing, there is a hunger for a love of the self that is anchored in something eternal. This self-love is anchored in the knowledge that Christ died out of love for you. (Ephesians 2:5) He has adopted you into His family (Romans 8:16-17), and calls you his son or daughter. The benefits of being loved are profound.
As Psychologist Curt Thompson states, “we all come into this world looking for someone, who is looking for us.” It begins when we feed at our mother’s breast and continues our whole life. The only one ‘looking for you’ that truly loves you is God. He is the one who loves you completely, and his love never fails. The benefits in the creative process are profound:
• A humble and mature confidence grows out of a healthy view of the self as a child of God, beloved by God and cherished by God. (1 John 3:1) This brings back the joy and faith of a child, wherein creativity flourishes.
• Increased healing as you begin to overcome the lies of self-hatred and self-loathing. Wherein the weights of shame and guilt are lifted so your energy can be poured into your creative work.
• Genuine confidence replaces the false confidence of bravado or vanity. This is a confidence that needs no defense, because God’s love is never-ending. This allows us to try new ideas and take new risks in our work, knowing God’s love is not going to fade like the love of the critics or cynics.
Love of Your Neighbor and Your Creative Process
Who is your neighbor? That was the question the pharisees used to try and trick Jesus. They wanted to know which people they should love, and which people they could ignore or treat as second-class citizens. It was in response to this question that Jesus told one of his most famous parables, The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). If you haven’t read it in a while, take the sixty seconds to read the passage.
The heart of the message is that everyone is your neighbor, especially the very people you find it hardest to love. If you are an artist or a professional creative, this includes everyone from your fans, your colleagues, and your patrons, to your art store supplier, the roadies who set up your equipment and the craft service people who serve. No one is second class in the kingdom of God, and no one is to be treated unlovingly. Again, the implications of this principle are vast and profound:
• Increased passion for our audiences, patrons and colleagues. This doesn’t mean all your art is sweet and upbeat. It means asking how your creative projects are influencing these ‘neighbors’ God has placed in your life. Some art may be helpful to create in the studio, and be therapeutic for you as the artist, but may not have the same impact in the public. A Godly man or woman will be considering their ‘neighbors’ at all stages. There is one caveat here: you can’t please everyone, so don’t make that your goal. Be thoughtful and prayerful. If you have considered these principles, then take the risks you need to take.
• Increased compassion and care for our colleagues will be the fruit of loving our neighbors. The ones we work with, serve with and negotiate with are all our neighbors. Once we have the eyes to see God in the midst of all these relationships, we can become free from focusing upon our self. As we step out in love towards others, especially the undesired and rejected, we will experience God’s love working through us. If this was how everyone worked in the art world and entertainment industry over the last century, there would have been no sexism and racism. Those at the top would have reached down to those facing the greatest hurdles and loved them the way Christ does. Sadly, our world is in a tremendous amount of pain as people have looked out only for their own tribe, their own little clique.
• Increased gratitude for their patrons, investors and employers. It is human nature to take for granted the gifts we are given. If we are asking God to show us our ‘neighbors’, we will see that those who may have more resources than us are still longing to be loved as a neighbor. We can ask about more than our prices and sell them on our opportunities. We can ask them about their hopes and dreams, and see how we can care for them.
In the end, no matter how famous, how celebrated, or how anonymous you may feel, remember this one thing: They will know you are a follower of Jesus by how you love God and how you love others in everything you do. If you create the greatest art, accumulate the most awards, and find financial success in the process, but have not love, it is nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Love God. Love your neighbors. Pursue your art with excellence and creativity. These three pursuits are not separate strands we hold in our hands. They are to be woven into a tapestry that honors God through the life we live, the art we create, and the people we love as our neighbor. If we can live this way, our creativity will flourish, and our father in Heaven will be glorified.
Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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Check out our video series Christianity & Creativity:
Christianity & Creativity: The Audience
Christianity & Creativity: An Artist’s Calling
Christianity & Creativity: Bezalel
Christianity & Creativity: Imago Dei
Christianity & Creativity: Freedom
Christianity & Creativity: Heart, Mind & Soul
Christianity & Creativity: Feedback Loop