In Episode 33, Marlita challenges the idea that our creativity is valuable because if its usefulness and explores it as a gift from God given to His children to enjoy.
Hello and welcome to the Kingdom Art Life Podcast. I'm your host, Marlita Hill, here to help you walk in wholeness, move in freedom, and work in harmony as you build your art career in collaboration with God.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a hip-hop dancer who told me about his love for dance. He shared how he felt so alive in the pure adrenaline of taking class and working hard on new steps and combinations. But he felt guilty for enjoying it so much because he didn't understand how taking a Hip-Hop class glorified God. And if it didn't glorify God, he didn't know if it was something he should be doing, let alone enjoying.
I was leading a group of dancers through the Kingdom Art Life Course. Throughout our discussion, I noticed this preoccupation with usefulness. As the dancers shared and responded, they repeatedly connected what we were talking about to being used by God. It was happening so much, it began to bother me, which was odd because I wouldn't have even noticed it years ago. I wouldn't have noticed it because I, too, was always focused on being used.
But God has shown me some things and the fixation on usefulness bothers me now.
As we continued the discussion, I listened for the ways in which the dancers struggled to think about any interaction with God and their art outside of this idea of usefulness. At one point, the Lord gave me a brilliant question to pose to them: What if you were to completely remove usefulness from your relationship with God as artists? Like just take it completely out of the equation. What would be left for the two of you in that relationship? What would be left between you and your art if making it useful wasn't an issue?
And after thinking for a moment, they began to respond as if asking for permission to imagine a relationship beyond usefulness. Communion? I could just make art? And on and on. And every time they took a risk to envision a richer, more vast interaction with God, I screamed Yes! Yes!
Because here's the thing with our fixation on usefulness: it colors everything a certain way (and not in a good way). Like imagine a guy is trying to court you, but in your mind, he only wants to sleep with you. He's trying to get to know you. He genuinely likes you and brings you small, thoughtful gifts because he likes you a lot and that's one way he expresses his interest and affection. He smiles at you when he sees you, gives you wonderful compliments. But everytime he does something nice, you are convinced he's only doing it because he wants to sleep with you. So your belief about his intentions colors (and really taints) every beautiful act of kindness and affection he offers.
Our fixation on usefulness does the same thing to God's genuine expressions of affection in our relationship with Him. It taints everything and causes us to miss out on (and actually fail to see and be able to receive) genuine acts of kindness, concern, friendship, company, communion and intimacy, genuine expressions of love with no strings attached.
And I wanted to address this first because this episode is actually about your creativity (and all the beautiful things it entails) being an expression of God's love for you with no strings attached. But I had to tackle usefulness first because your art being a gift from God to you for you is a reality we really struggle to embrace.
So let's get into it.
I have a question for you. Does God ever give us permission to make art for the sake of making art? To create for whatever reason we want to and just enjoy doing it?
Now as I pose that question, I imagine some of you answering with Duh, of course. What a dumb question. But humor me for a second -because though we answer that with all the sense of "ofcourseness" in the world, I'm telling you man, my conversations with artists of faith (including with myself) reveal we struggle to simply engage with our creative life like it is a gift from God to us for us with no strings attached.
But the answer is yes. God permits us to make art just because. He not only permits us to. He wants us to. When we think about our creative gifts, we imagine them as a tool attached to a list of tasks that we need to use our tool to complete. And I can imagine some of you feel like you don't see your art like this, but deeper conversation betrays you.
Now what if, instead of imagining your creative gift as a tool with a to-do list attached, you envisioned it as a gift, beautifully and ornately wrapped and presented to you by the one who loves you to enjoy as you wish.
As I prepared for this episode, the Lord led me to Ecclesiastes. In this book, we journey with the writer as he's reasoning through different things about life: what's vanity, what's not vanity, what's really worth it? What do things really come down to. Throughout his reasoning, he comes to several conclusions and realizations. One of those is in Ecclesiastes 5:18-20. I'm reading the Amplified version:
Behold, here is what I have seen to be good and fitting: to eat and drink, and to find enjoyment in all the labor in which [one] labors under the sun during the few days of his life which God gives him—for this (eating, drinking, and finding enjoyment in the things he does) is his [allotted] reward. 19 Also, every man to whom God has given riches and possessions (which our creativity is a rich treasure), He has also given the power and ability to enjoy them and to receive [this as] his [allotted] portion and to rejoice in his labor—this (the power and ability to enjoy it) is the gift of God [to him]. 20 For he (the man who embraces this gift) will not often consider the [troubled] days of his life, because God keeps him occupied and focused on the joy of his heart [and the tranquility of God indwells him].
I mean come on! What else is there to say? I Timothy 6:17 tells us that God gives us richly all things to enjoy.
The amplified version says God richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. I feel safe in saying that "all things" and "everything" would include your creative life.
So your creative life (and all the amazing things that come with that and out of that) is a gift from your Father who loves you that He's given to you, for you to enjoy as you wish. Without repentance. No strings attached. Period. And I'm going to pause for just a moment because I need you to just let that sink in and take root in your heart.
Now I can address the reality that we engage with God in His purpose, that He has purpose for us and for our gifts - what we refer to as being used by Him. We'll really get into this in a couple of weeks but let me briefly address it here lest you misunderstand the point I'm trying to make.
Jill Scott has a song called "Whatever," about how her man put the lovin' on her so good that she woke up trying to think of things she could do for him. It was that good. In part of the song, she says, "Do you want some money baby? How about some chicken wings? Do you want some fish and grits? I'll hurry and go get it." Then she goes into the chorus: Whatever.
And at the end of the song, she sings, "Love last night, never knew passion could taste so sweet, alright. I made a vow to you. Everything I do for you is a joy and gift. You got my whole life lifted. Whatever....
So in this song, we listen to this woman who was so affected by how this man loved on her that she was looking for ways to reciprocate. You know we sing about this kind of love in church. You're a good, good Father. We sing and weep about the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God that chases us down and fights until we're found. A love so intense that God says there's no shadow I won't light up, no mountain I won't climb up coming after you.
What is the response to that kind of love? That's what Jill Scott is showing us? Whatever, whatever. God the way love me, and show me your love with this extravagant creative gift, how can I say Thank you? How can I even begin to try to love you back the same way. Do you want my life? Take it? You want this gift? If you do, it's yours. You can use it however you want to. Whatever, whatever.
And that's the heart, the heart of worship, the response to God's overwhelming love. And out of that heart, you join Him in purpose, linking the direction of your life with His and making what you have available to Him to be put to use as you partner with Him in purpose.
Because artist, you are not God's Cinderella. Your creativity is a broom. You are the apple of His eye, one that He loves so much that He gave. And part of that giving is that extraordinary gift of creativity. Your art, and all it entails, is a gift from your Father who loves you that He's given to you, for you to enjoy as you wish.
No strings attached.