But writing? When I’m in the middle of it, I forget that it’s art. I read other people’s writing and can see the connection clearly. But when I’m doing it, I doubt. I struggle to find the words. I type, I delete, I stare into space. But just so we’re all clear, writing—even your writing, even mine—is art.
But back to the lampshade. I recently made one for my office. It was a long, sometimes tedious project, but I am very proud of the results. I’m proud of how nice the shade looks, for the money I saved, for the incredible blessing of having an office to decorate after months of unemployment. But I’m also proud of the expression of myself that is in the shade. In the process of reflecting on the project, I found myself wondering if I love the lampshade.
I don’t actually love the lampshade. It is, after all, an inanimate object with no soul. But there is also something of the eternal in this lampshade because I made it. There is something of the eternal God in me, both because I am created in his image and because he has redeemed my brokenness, and so because of the great care and time I put in making the lampshade, and because it is an expression of the art that is in me—art that is ultimately from God—there is something good and eternal in this shade, this art I have created. And so I guess it’s more accurate to say that I love God, but part of my love for God is reflected in the lampshade. He and I created it together. His expression of beauty and art, and more, his patience and care and grace, are all built into this silly little shade. So if I say I love the lampshade, really what I’m saying is that I love the art that God has created in my life.
I feel much the same way about writing—the writing that is, after all, art. In the same ways I used fabric and glue and thread to create art for my office, I use pen and paper (or, more likely, keyboard and screen) to create art. The lampshade is so much more than the sum of its parts, and so writing is so much more than just the words on the page. It is passion, aspiration, faith, doubt—the sum of the human experience can be expressed and understood in writing just as it is expressed in other types of art.
And ultimately, art is good and speaks to our souls because it expresses something of the eternal. This is the power of writing, of singing, of things we create that words cannot express. We are made in his image, all of us, and something of Elohim, the Creator God, lingers in us. But we who are redeemed—and whose art is redeemed—have a special privilege, a special responsibility. As God created, so we create. As he penetrates the soul with the word, so can our words be used by him. Writing is an act of faith-ing, of speaking, of yielding, of wielding. Our art can show life and light to the world.
And so, God—whether we actually use his name or not—uses art as a revolutionary force. A friend of mine recently said on her blog, “The heart can be a wall. But if you put hinges on a wall, it becomes a door. And culture [or art] is the hinge. What a revelation to me, the culture-lover! No wonder I am so in love with culture–it has opened up my heart to God.”
When I was young, I enjoyed the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” The words stirred my young soul, and my mind gave image to the timeless words:
And how great our art can be, too.
For more on creating art with our words and our lives, see Emily Freeman’s blog, Chatting at the Sky. She has been writing about art all this year.