How Worship Creates the Artist

There is no distinction between the artist and the person who has experienced God. No experiencer of God is not an artist.

-Matthew Fox

To create with all abandon — is that worship?

Just as abandon of the heart leaves us open to receive from God His quickening, abandon of the creative powers allows full function of their activity. This abandon is God-worship. God-worship is an opening up, and it enables us to reflect creatively on what our senses have perceived. Without worship, we will be stunted in our expression to only that which we have already seen. Worship opens our creative expression up to more, but that means it must also not be bridled by our personal idolatry. Idolatry is worship limited to created things; it does not worship something eternal and yet unseen, and thus does not give opportunity for human originality in our creating.

God-worship must exist therefore, or what is created will be limited to cliche. We will be tempted to reproduce the work of others we say we merely admire. For instance, I have read Ann Voskamp’s blog A Holy Experience for years, and I find myself tempted to adopt her style of phrasing — and sometimes I do without noticing, which will never create truly worthwhile art. I realized this when I read L.L. Barkat’s book, Rumors of Water.

Writers worry a lot about… voice. They are always wondering if they have one, and if not, how they can find one. The truth is that every writer has a voice. It is probably best heard by listening to oneself speak. However, once a writer starts setting down words, a process of elimination and substitution begins. A writer thinks there is a way to sound on the page, and reaches for it. Sometimes this works out okay; often, it makes for stilted language or turns the writer into an accidental copycat.

In my work [as] an online Managing Editor, I sometimes say things like this to the editors I work with: ‘Watch out for the Ann Voskamp stage; almost everyone who reads Ann’s blog ends up dropping articles. Put the the‘s and the an‘s back in. Cultivate the writer’s own voice.

I love to hear Barkat attest to each person’s unique voice. That means there is space for unique art. I discovered this in the woods last week, as I looked up at a tree, reaching and twisting in a way never done before. The tree would have been mad to demand that it be fashioned like another tree. I was further impressed by how it reached and twisted not of its own volition but of God’s. Neither did the tree gloat about its stout branches, or the curve of them; that too would have been insane. Instead, it stood resolutely because it was quickened in the function of being a tree. Its giving-in, or humility, if you will, did not make it passive. Quite the opposite: the tree was very much alive. Irresistible worship gave the tree its uniqueness and allowed creativity to be expressed in it to its fullest.

God-worship is not irresistible for us, and so can get caught up in self-worship, creation-worship. But opening our hands, minds, bodies to the art we are made to express is the beginning of God-worship. Perhaps that explains why ideas flow more easily in the process of writing more than in my planning or worrying over a piece of work. In those moments, I am already submitted to the Giver of words, even though I have not handled them yet. I recognize Him as faithful to supply them.

I have a book called Space for Godand it is graced with prints of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, a man who said Christ “is more of an artist than the artists.” He was a man who worshiped, who allowed himself to be taught by the infinite.

We like to call Van Gogh great, or e.e. cummings great, or any of the revered artists great. But those whom we call great were ones merely stunned by the greatness of the Other — God — a necessarily humble state. Human creativity cannot happen without that stunning, without glory blinding away our self-worship into worship of God.

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