If an author is passionate about sharing words to motivate or inspire, he writes. He hides in an upstairs guest room converted to an office with computer cords and plastic cups of water and a few used Kleenex wadded up and thrown down by his feet. And he writes – when his kids are asleep and his wife is asleep and the whole world seems to be asleep but his own overactive mind – accelerating past words like a stallion. Because it’s not about being sexy, it’s about the story that is escaping him soon enough.
And if a singer wants pull at heartstrings, she starts to strum on her guitar and raises an arm and pours our her soul into the microphone like she’s praying out loud. Nobody knows she wrote that song after her mom died and that was the only way she could stop drinking and pick herself up off the pavement. And she didn’t care if she looked too religious or not religious or just plain silly perched on a stool with her eyes closed singing about a man named Jesus, but through her mascara she drug it out anyway, weeping and exhausted from the energy it took to retrieve.
I’ve seen artists sit by water and in damp dark studios wishing for a better place to paint, but there’s no luxury for more than the canvas they re-purposed from Goodwill. Their hands are moving to the imaginary sound of wings that are beating from doves that are landing on a fence that has yet to be formed in oil. And as they draw the brush they think of money they don’t have and laundry they need to fold and a life that was only half-lived, but this fence and these birds, they are liberating.
And God is sewn through these artists, a tapestry woven and stitched. It’s the outpouring of love, blanketed around the world like a slow burn.
But then the author gets a book deal, and a media page, and begins to focus on the reality of publishing. There are hits and strategies and followers and clubs. They are campaigns and tours and the advance for another manuscript. And all of a sudden the writer is not creating, but churning, and expecting, and beginning to think of himself as One Who Writes that needs to be on a podium with a microphone.
And the singer gets discovered. After the tears of joy, she gets a label and an agent and a manager and a road crew. And she starts to care what her hair looks like and what her friends look like and feels the naked skin of the roadie. She can’t make it for Christmas or Mother’s Day either because she’s got a gig in Nashville and what’s more important, really?
Ego ruins art. It’s the quickest way for our ministry to become our biggest liability. We start to falsely believe we’ve earned the right, and earned the fame, and begin to tell others how to do things instead of praying that we are doing them well. When the urge to create is overshadowed with the urge to be successful, we’ve lost it. It’s the moment when the spirit leaves and we’re left focusing on ourselves, and a void grows in our heart where love used to live.
Let’s not become Martha Stewart, who runs an entire empire based on hospitality and craft but might lose sight of being hospitable. Let us instead find our inner-Julia Child, captivated by the wonder and joy of it all. Let’s undo the shackles and focus less on publishing, recording, speaking, and signing. Let’s create for the sheer pleasure of worship, and using our talents for a higher purpose, for when we write well and we sing well and we paint a masterpiece on paper, we are lifting up and pushing out and sending beauty into the world. That’s an honor, and a privilege, and one to be taken seriously.
Go out and create, artists of the world. With messy hair and messy hearts and shaking fingers. It’s not for your glory, because you didn’t create it to begin with. It just so happened to be found within you, and you are simply releasing it back into the kingdom from which it came.