Thursday, February 21, 2013

Art and Fear

This Lenten season I will focus my writing on what I have experienced in the relationships between suffering, faith and creativity. 

Suffering, Faith and Creativity

Part 2: Art and Fear

Sometimes it feels like torture, this stripping down to the bone that grief demands.  It can be a cold and exposing experience, the shedding of concrete layers, the unraveling of protective walls that took years to build.  But there are moments, holy moments, when this painful process of living and suffering, is more truth than torture, and more refining than exposing. 

There were reasons I shied away from my art when life came easily and hurt came in manageable waves.  I now see these reasons as excuses, shallow defenses that never actually gave me the safety that I craved.  “I am too busy,” I would say as I juggled work and home.  “It is just not that season of my life,” I would defend when encouraged to make space to do what I loved.  But beneath all the words, under all the excuses, waited a fragile soul, desperate to create but strangled by fear.    

Isn’t this really why we choose not to create, why we choose to ignore the sparks that God ignites?  Aren’t we really just afraid?  The risk of standing naked amongst the chorus of “not good enough” drives us to reach for leaves to cover our bare souls.  I put on one leaf of worrying what others might think.  I covered myself with another leaf of constant busyness.  Finally over them all, I placed the leaf of fear of failure.  For of course, there is much to fear.  There is deep risk involved.  Rejection, disapproval, the unbearable shrill of silence, all wait for us on the other side of stepping into our art.  They hold our creative selves captive and loom like a grey sky over every ounce of inspiration that we carry.  I know them well.  

But when we stand among the ashes of the life that we once knew in the garden, when we walk through the wake of our wretched grief, all is not lost.  For we find that those leaves that we have hidden behind for our whole lives, have also been blessedly burned.  We finally stop searching for assurance that never was, and start looking for art that has always been.  Though we stand naked and undone, broken and forever changed, we stand behind the only One in whom we can truly hide.  And yes, this feels a little bit like fear, but it feels a lot more like freedom.