In Episode 32, Marlita welcomes the Kingdom Art Life podcast community back and shares four aspects of her faith and art experience that drive this work to encourage artists to walk in wholeness, move in freedom, and work in harmony as they build their art career in collaboration with God.
Hello and welcome to the Kingdom Art Life podcast where we are exploring how to walk in wholeness, move in freedom, and work in harmony as we build a life in art in collaboration with God.
I am so excited to resume this podcast. Our last episode was in 2018 and boy has a lot of life happened since then. This podcast sparked a book called Defying Discord: Ending the divide between your faith and secular art career which came out in 2019. And a course also called the Kingdom Art Life which came out in 2020. Lots of other amazing things have happened along the way, the biggest being I graduated with my MFA in choreography from Belhaven University on May 1st 2021. Whoo lordy, that was a 3-year adventure of many dimensions but it was a tremendous gift of the Lord's faithfulness in my art life.
I have shared in previous episodes that the Lord told me to put my choreography practice down—like stop everything—in 2016 and develop the Kingdom Artist Initiative (now Institute). And as time went on, I began to think that dance was just something I used to do.
O but no.
In a single completely unexpected email, I was invited to move to Jackson, Mississippi to resume my creative practice and discover who I was as a dance maker in this season.
It was rough.
I was embarassingly rusty.
But it was so worth it.
Anyway, a lot has happened since 2018. This work has deepened and expanded so much since then. So as we reconnect and continue walking together in this faith and art experience, I want to share a couple of things to set the tone for us moving forward in this season of this work.
And I want to start with me by sharing four things about my back story in this faith, art, and career journey.
I didn't realize, until recently, that my entrance into this experience has so much to do with the way I think, move, and walk in it. I never paid attention to this because I always thought of the beginning of this journey as the time when I started to create a structure and frame around these ideas. And the only thing to tell about that beginning was that the Lord told me to begin. So I did.
But in the last couple of months, as I've stumbled and struggled to find the right words to explain this work I do with artists of faith, the spirit of God led me to revisit my own personal beginning into this experience, which has shaped everything I've done in it.
The first thing I realized was that the first time I ever remember hearing the Lord speak to me, it was about art.
And He said “Go watch.”
I was 15 years old and there was this dance ministry that was about to minister. They were called The Hush Company, led by Stacy and La Quin Meadows.
Now I had no desire to watch this dance ministry. I had no interest in art. I mean, it was cool and all, but if I wasn't around it, I didn't miss it.
I wanted to be a psychologist.
So when I heard this voice tell me to go watch this dance group, I resisted. But the voice was persistent so I finally relented and went to watch. And as I watched, my destinial lights were punched out. Let's just say I was at my first rehearsal 3 days later.
So #1, my first encounter with God's voice, at least that I can remember, was about art.
The next thing I realized is that it was in the context of dancing that I learned God, who this voice was that told me to go watch. I learned how He works. I began to learn how to walk this life of faith through practicing it and my day-to-day life in dance. Dance was the laboratory where I experimented with all the things I was learning in church. My learning how to stand in faith and walk by faith all happened within my art life.
So #2, my life in dance was, and still is, a laboratory for me to learn about who God is, how he works, and how to practically walk out this life of faith.
The third thing I realized is that every creative endeavor since that “Go Watch” encounter has been directed or affirmed by the Lord.
Remember, I didn't want to be an artist so I had no creative ambitions.
I didn't know what I was doing.
I just followed what I heard, from joining the dance ministry to leaving that dance ministry to go to school for dance, to presenting my work primarily in secular culture. The transition from ministry in local churches to building an art career in secular culture was God directed. And all the creative projects that have come to me since then—which have nothing to do with evangelism—have been God-inspired.
#3 All of my creative activity has been influenced, if not directed, by Him.
And lastly, I grew up in a church where I was taught that I was supposed to be in secular culture, that I was supposed to take space and engage there as a Kingdom representative by using my gifts, doing what the Lord gifted and graced me to do.
And it is these four parts of my experience that have enabled me to walk in wholeness, move in freedom, and allow the faith, artistic, and entrepreneurial parts of myself to work together in harmony. And it is from this place that I speak to you.
Now at first, I thought my back story was irrelevant, even a liability because I never struggled with God's acceptance of my art expression in any form or context. Nor did I ever struggle with the interaction between my faith and art practice. So I worried that I had no right to speak to people who did struggle in those things.
The thing is I didn't struggle with those things but I did struggle with accepting them, with learning how to believe them and move about like I believed them when others thought I was delusional.
And yet it is from my experience that I come to encourage you to walk in the wholeness Christ gave you, where you're not wasting time doing redundant work trying to integrate something that hasn't been separate sense Christ redeemed every part of you at salvation, and since there is no part of you that lies outside of that redemption.
It is from that experience that I encourage you to move in freedom, where you are unapologetic about being the artist you feel led to be—
no matter what kind of art you make, where you make it, who you make it with, or what you make it for—
because you are confident that the Lord is present and at work in your creative heart.
And it is from that experience that I encourage you to allow your faith, art, and career to work and grow together—
because you understand that they were designed to coexist and neither needs to be sacrificed or diminished for the other to thrive;
That in fact they each get stronger through their interaction with one another.
As we embark on the next chapter of our journey together, then, these are the things we'll be unpacking, and so much more. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart as we move forward.
I also want to say welcome to those who have just found this podcast and a huge thank you to those of you who have stuck with me as I figure out how to steward this thing.