Over the past several months, I have thought a lot about what it means to create… how we do it, should we do it, and why we do it. I have pondered and prayed and read. I am finally reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. It’s clear to see why it is often recommended on the topic of faith-and-art. She is simply enlightening and I am learning much about the need for art, the process of creating it, and the importance of sharing it.
She begins by pointing out that because we are made in the image of God, who is the ultimate Creator, that we too are made to create. We have the ability to create smart, beautiful, and moving art in infinite forms. She presents many examples of artists’ who have created what she refers to as “true art” and she refers to icons as something inspired by God that can lead others to worship God or highlight a specific part of His character. This could be a painting that reveals something to us or a song that leads us to the throne. It could be a novel that shifts our perspective or a simple drawing drawn by a child that warms our heart and reminds us to enjoy life.
I have been thinking about my personal desire and responsibility to bring forth whatever I have received and “worked out” into the world to be experienced by others with the hope of them understanding and worshipping God or to be reminded of His greatness. I believe we all have things that we receive from God, be it a story or something that we build or draw or cook, that we should share with others.
The chef receives inspiration for a delicious meal that he wants to serve to others so they can enjoy and be nourished. The painter works to create her vision so that people can gaze upon it and be moved. The writer’s inspired words can encourage, heal, entertain, and teach. Anything that one creates has unlimited potential and meaning and should be shared. I have grown more and more grateful to the writers of so many things… I couldn’t even begin to list every artist that has ever inspired me, but want to share this:
A couple of months ago at church, I learned the story behind the famous hymn by Horatio Spafford It Is Well With My Soul. What a strong example of the importance to express the things that we receive from God. The short version of the story behind the song is this: Spafford (October 20, 1828– October 16, 1888) and his wife, Anna were devout Christians and prominent supporters of evangelist and publisher Dwight L. Moody. Spafford, a practicing lawyer, invested heavily in real estate in north Chicago which was lost in the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871.
After this tragedy, he and his family spent two years serving the refugees of the fire. In 1893, they decided they needed a respite and would holiday in Europe. His four daughters and wife ended up sailing before him. Their ship wrecked into another ship and 226 people were killed including Spafford’s four daughters. His wife was “saved alone” as her telegram to her husband read. Spafford immediately set sail to England, their destination, to be with his wife. On his journey he sailed directly over the place of the wreckage, where his daughters lie in a watery grave. When he came to this place, he wrote the prodigious hymn It Is Well with My Soul. Below are the lyrics:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
And Lord haste the day, when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.
I cannot begin to imagine the emotional turmoil he felt as he penned that, but I am forever thankful that he did. First, I’m thankful to God who gave the peace and inspiration in that unbearable moment. Imagine the strong need and leading that would allow someone to create something so powerful- to have the clarity of mind during a time of such intense pain. It is most definitely a supernatural occurrence. I am also forever grateful that Spafford was able to listen, process, and obey the whisper that lead to the birth of this song that has inspired so many people for years!
It helps me to remember that nothing we create goes void. Even if it only ever reaches the eyes, ears, or heart of one other soul it matters and is important. Not many people will see my sons’ artwork and crafts they create or the cities they build, but I do and it inspires me greatly. Most of us do not have giant platforms where people are chomping at the bit to learn and see what we have created, but those that are meant to will. Don’t stop creating whatever it is you create. Don’t stop singing or dancing or writing or playing or constructing. It matters, we were made to do it, and I don’t want to miss it!