What Fuels Our Artistic Purpose
We all long for a clear vision for our life and our art, and to realize what fuels our artistic purpose. Few realize the profound truth that our life’s purpose and our art’s purpose are discovered in the same source. The same inspiration and creative impulses are running through your heart, your senses, and your mind right now. But, if we are not careful, we will miss the mystery and beauty of what fuels our life and why creativity therefore must always be a part of our calling. If you want to live and create with all the passion and zest for life you have been given, this truth must be understood and lived.
Beautiful & Poetic Life
The God and creator of life is calling you today, to live a beautiful and poetic life. Why? Because he created you for such a life. You were created as a mysterious, wonderfully made, dignified person. There is no one else like you and no one has the exact insights and creative ideas you do.
God gave you the desire to love and to be loved, to understand and to express, and the desire to create in a way that echoes the manner in which God created you. You cannot create as God did, ‘out of nothing’, but you have millions of sources of inspiration in this world – to create in fresh ways and to say something new in a better way than before.
Two Truths You Must Embrace
The first truth you must grasp is this: You, and your life have more in common with the beauty and complexity of creation than anything else you can imagine. I know this is true because God’s word tells us that you are God’s own creation, his own masterpiece, his poem, and his handiwork. Men and women are also described as the pinnacle of creation, as we were made on the last day of creation.
The second truth you must grasp is this: You were made to imitate your father in heaven by also creating and bringing beauty and goodness into the world. Your art work, and your creativity were meant to echo the very creativity of God in creating you, so that the gift he has given you can be a blessing to others.
These two truths are found in one verse in the New Testament. We find it in the words of the Apostle Paul as he wrote to the church in Ephesus.
We are his poetry, created in Christ Jesus for beautiful purposes,
Ephesians 2:10 (My Personal Translation)
Most translations will read something like, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.” The problem is that workmanship and good works fail to express all the beauty and mystery of that verse. This is not mere semantics. This is a serious theological point and the ever-present truth embedded in the gospel and in God’s love for you. Out of His profound imagination, God gave a gift to this world. He gave this world a poem, which he commissioned, and that poem is you.
The Problem with Translations
The problem in this passage is that the word for workmanship and the words “good works” don’t have a linguistic equivalent in our modern English. Much like the words for love in Greek, such as agape, phileo and eros, do not have an English equivalent.
This is one of those texts where the scribes and translators, for centuries, have been too heavily influenced by the modernist and enlightenment teachers before them. It is hard for any of us to not be overly influenced by the passions of our age. The desire for precision and theological import has led them to overlook the beauty and elegance in this verse. I am thankful for their work, and their love for honoring the word of God, but there is something missing, which is profound to our lives as believers, and especially to artists and professional creatives. With humility and respect, I offer this new insight.
First let us look at the word translated as “workmanship” it is the Greek word Poiema, from which we get the word poem. We may think today of a Haiku, a sonnet or even a limerick, but that would do Paul’s intent a great disservice.
For the ancient Greek, the model of poetry was something grand – the epic poetry of the Iliad and the Odyssey. These were massive works of art with parables, cautionary tales and mysteries requiring thousands of verses. These epic and revered works of poetry were the mark of creativity and excellence in the world into which Paul compared you to a poem.
This poetry refers to an art filled with symbolism, rich imagery and stories that sound more like parables and paradoxes. Poetry is something that invites the reader or listener to pay close attention, to listen closely, and allow the pregnant words to awaken our imagination.
The only other time this word is used is in Romans 1:20, where it is used to describe the “creation” of the world. It is clear that Paul is comparing you and I to the “creation” of the world, wherein we were the finishing touches of God’s Creation.
You Are a Grand Work of Art
This word Poiema is pregnant with meaning that we have lost. Knowing this helps us to see we are more than a simple poem. You are a grand work of art, a masterpiece, and furthermore, a living temple of the Holy Spirit. What grandeur God has bestowed upon you. We dare not strip this gift from God of the beauty, mystery and glory Paul intended. You are something God chose, before the beginning of Creation, to live right here and now, and to be His poetry in the lives of those around you.
God, as the great poet, patiently places us where we are, and carefully calls us to walk in the way he has planned for us. Just as Jesus spoke in parables, to bring out the nuance in subjects, he has created you to be a poem that is rich and complex.
God is in the business of making all things beautiful (Eccl 3:11), including you, your artwork, and your life. This alone is too wonderful for us to understand, and yet there is more.
The term good works is fine as far as it goes, but there is so much more beauty in this idea. The Greek word ‘ergon’ is not “works” like what you do 9-5 for a job or even a career. Rather, this word for ‘works’ refers to those actions we choose to do. It isn’t mere habits, or daily rituals, but the actions you take and the things you do with real intention. It brings to mind those times when you go out of your way to care for others, to protect the weak, honor the elderly, and bring hope to the hopeless, or maybe creating art that inspires, instructs or uplifts others.
The word translated “good” is actually the word “kalos” which isn’t the proper word for ‘good’. This word denotes actions that are noble, lovely, gracious and beautiful. This might be something like a king who goes out of his way to rescue one of his own people who were lost or captured. We don’t really have a word for it in English, but this word refers to actions and accomplishments that are both morally good while possessing an element of beauty and grace in them. This might include adopting an abandoned child, or creating opportunities for people less fortunate than you. Both these acts are ‘good’. But they are more than simply a ‘good thing’. They are also moving to the soul, and lovely to witness. These are the kinds of acts Paul was referring to. This is what you were created for.
Your Life and Your Art
Your life is a profound mystery. The question now is how you respond to such a gift. What lovely and noble, or beautiful actions and choices has God called you to do that you need to prepare for in this year, or in years to come?
You see, God has prepared you, and prepared those around you, so that He might speak through you and through your artistic creations. Now He is simply asking us to walk in the way He is leading, speak in the way He is showing us, and share our lives with others in the way He is creating opportunities to share.
You and I were made to make meaning out of life. To make connections between ideas, to find order in the middle of chaos, and share our insight with others. But unlike a treatise or a dissertation, the goal is not to nail down every concept like an appendage of a frog, children dissect in school-so we can label the separated parts.
The purpose of a poem is to bring things together, to enrich the reader as they begin to understand the meaning and beauty of life. This is why you are a poem, not a thesis, and a work of art, not a dissertation or logical syllogism.
The mysterious poem of God becoming man, and choosing the most noble and lovely action of all – to become a sacrifice for us, shows us just what God is up to. Such a poem is not obvious. It continues to confound the wise, even while bringing life to you and I.
The mysterious poem of your life is also designed by God to glorify Him.
May you and I take time to quiet our hearts, listen to His Voice, and ask him to show us how our lives are poetic in the lives of others.
Great poetry and great art has a lasting impact upon their audience. I pray that your life is like the grand music of Mozart, the paintings of Van Gogh, and a great fragrance from Heaven . . . which beckons others to come to their senses, lift up their heads, and praise God Himself.
Copyright © 2021 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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