(I’m trying something new this week. If you would like to hear me read my blog post aloud, just click the play button. Let me know in the comments if you’d like me to do more of this!) (If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.)
God is a creator.
It is the first thing we learn about Him. In the beginning, God created.
Perhaps it is because I am an artist myself, but I like to think that this is important. That God-as-creator being the first thing He tells us about Himself is a clue to His character, to what He deems is significant.
Creator God placed art in a position of great importance because it reminds us of the glory that once was and the glory that will be again.
I don’t know much about the visual arts or about theater or dance. Music, however, is an art that I know quite intimately, and I love the insights it gives us into the nature and character of God.
For example, music helps us to understand time. It shows us that the present is what is most important. Music only truly exists in the present. Music in the future is just a possibility, just a plan. Music in the past is done, it cannot be heard again. Music in the present? Beauty. Only as it passes that razor edge moment of the present time can it be heard and appreciated.
Music also shows us that taking time to accomplish something can be good. More than good, it can be amazing. We often chafe against the delay between creation and restoration. We want God to come now, for Him to make everything perfect immediately. Yet when we listen to a Beethoven symphony, we are drawn into more than an hour of experiencing the music unfold and are astounded at the way it all fits together to create the final chords. No one would be impatient for that hour to pass just to reach the end. We savor that hour of music and that hour of music makes the ending all the more stunning.
As we experience the music’s dark shadows and turns, we allow ourselves to be led far more profoundly into the story’s sense and power. Music is remarkably instructive here, because more than any other art form, it teaches us how not to rush over tension, how to find joy and fulfillment through a temporal movement that includes struggles, clashes and fractures. ~ Jeremy Begbie in Resounding Truth
Music give us insight into understanding the trinity. Three-in-one is beyond the grasp of comprehension, yet God gave us music to help. If I play one note on the piano, it fills up all available aural space. There are no gaps. If I play a three-note chord on the piano, all three notes still fill up all the same available aural space, yet all three notes also sound their distinctive pitch. More than that, it is not a particular chord unless all three notes are played together.
The notes interpenetrate, occupy the same heard space, but I can hear them as (three) notes…What could be more apt than to speak of the Trinity as a three-note chord, a resonance of life; Father, Son, and Spirit mutually indwelling, without mutual exclusion, and yet without merger, each occupying the same space, ‘sounding through’ one another, yet irreducibly distinct, reciprocally enhancing, and establishing one another as one another? ~ Jeremy Begbie in Resounding Truth
There are many other ways that God uses music to teach us about Himself, to give us wisdom to understand Him more. What are some that you have thought of?
It leaves me awestruck with gratitude. I am grateful beyond measure that He gives us something so beautiful as a way of revealing Himself.
You artists who practice other genres of art, what theology do you find in your particular art form? What about those of you who are non-practicing art lovers? Do you see God in any particular form of art?
Art credit: Thanks to NASA for sharing such magnificent photographs of the mysteries of space.
The cool, crisp air striking your skin, the blazing bonfire scent filling you up with every breath, the crunch of leaves underfoot. Most of all, the leaves. The dazzling display of fiery colors that fill your sight in every direction.
Those radiant colors that inspire poetry and art are, I recently discovered (or perhaps rediscovered as I feel sure I probably learned this at one time during my elementary school career), actually the true colors of the leaves. The green that we see for most of the year, the green that fills up our springtime and summer, is just the tree-feeding chlorophyll covering up the brightness. It is not until the tree is no longer making food, not until the leaves are beginning to die, that their true colors blaze out.
I want that.
Oh, how I desperately want that.
As I age, as my body moves closer to death, I want for the colors of this life to begin to fade away and the colors of Jesus in me to blaze out.
From the moment we choose life in Jesus, we are changing.
Little by little, day by day, the green of this world starts to fade.
Little by little, choice by choice, the light of the life to come begins to shine.
The older I become, the more I want people to look at me and see Jesus. I want the colors of me, the colors of my natural self, to fade away. I want the brilliance of Jesus to take over.
At the end of my life, my body will be bent and wrinkled, dry and withered. My prayer is that by then my own self will be so one with Christ that when people look into my eyes, they are taken aback with the dazzling display of Jesus that fills their sight.
What are some of the lessons that Mother Nature is teaching you about our common Creator? She speaks loudly if we will only listen.
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. ~ Romans 1.20
Those who follow Jesus are, I fear, often suspicious of reason.
Some believe that the spiritual is far above intellect and cannot be discerned by the mind. Some are simply afraid that those who are deemed intellectual will produce proof after proof to debunk their cherished beliefs.
It seems a paradox that we can know God by reason and we can know God only by revelation.
Yet our faith is full of paradoxes: the last will be first; the King came as a servant; you live by dying; you gain by giving away. It is one of the things I love about this Christ-filled life. One can never get bored; there will never be a dearth of things to discover.
I love a good mystery novel. I adore following the clues and trying to figure out the solution. The best mystery authors are the ones who can lead you on, doling out all of the necessary clues and handing you a surprise twist at the end, a twist that you never saw coming but one that perfectly fulfills all of the clues that came before.
This is our faith. The Old Testament prophets gave all of the necessary clues to finding the Messiah yet when He finally arrived, the way in which He perfectly agreed with their descriptions was a complete surprise.
I imagine that this is how it will be at the end of our own times. The final revelation of God will perfectly complete all that we have reasoned out, yet in a beautifully surprising way.
Our Creator gave us reason, gave us intellect, gave us curiosity for a purpose. I suspect that He delights in surprising us, in crafting intricate puzzles that lead us on ever new adventures of discovery.
Formulas are nice when you want to control your results.
Living creatively is risky.
Yet the first thing that we are told about this God in whose image we are created is that He Himself is creative. He is a creator.
You can never tell what will come of living creatively. Even many who are courageous enough to practice an art form and share it with the world would prefer to live more formulaically.
Many of our choices in this life can be directly guided by what God says through His Scriptures. Am I angry with someone? I should not kill them. Do I see something I like in a store window? I should not steal it.
Yet there are so many other areas in our lives where we are asked to live as courageously as artists, to be riskily creative with our choices. We ask God where we should live, where we should go to school, whom we should marry, what sort of career we should pursue, how exactly we should parent our children, and we are dissatisfied with the answer that God can use us wherever we are and on whatever path we choose.
There are other, more specific situations, in which we long with all of our being to do the right thing, to obey God, to be like Jesus, yet that right thing is far from clear. This is where we yearn for a formula. We desperately want to be able to turn to a page, a verse, and get a specific answer for a specific issue.
We tell ourselves it is because we want to obey, yet perhaps it is often closer to the truth that we simply do not trust God’s Spirit in us. We do not trust that the Holy Spirit can guide us in the way that honors God. We are too fearful to take the risk of living like an artist.
I have been in the middle of just such a situation this week and have found myself searching anxiously for a formula to tell me what to do. I was attacked by a dog, a dog that is owned by a neighbor with a history of keeping dogs who have to be put down for attacking people.
Whether or not my neighbor knows God, I am not aware. What an amazing opportunity to make God known to her! And I live in a neighborhood filled with children. God asks us to protect the weak, to care for those who cannot care for themselves.
How can I do both of these things? How can I glorify God to my neighbor and protect the children of our neighborhood at the same time? Certainly an eternal soul is more important than any physical harm, yet God also calls us to work toward justice and the defense of the weak.
Part of the trouble that I (and most of you, I would wager!) like to know my path several steps in advance. Preferably enough steps in advance to allow me to see the end. I do not like walking forward when I can only see the space where my foot will land next.
I knew my next step. I knew that God was asking me to meet with the owner of the dog and just speak with her, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to know what would happen after that. I wanted to see all the way to the end, to know how I would both protect the children and make God known to my neighbor.
God did not ask me to plan out all of my steps to the end. He did not tell me the formula I should use to accomplish both of these goals. He did not give me the task of making certain that everything was ordered perfectly in order to reach His aims.
He only asked me to do the first thing and to trust Him with the rest, to live creatively and allow the Spirit to guide me one step at a time.
So I did. I met with the dog’s owner without knowing what would come next. I took the risk of starting down this path, trusting that God will shine His light ahead when the time is right. I don’t yet know the ending to this story. I don’t know how God will work things out.
So I live like an artist, taking the risk to wait for His light without planning all of my steps to completion, knowing that God is far more able to control the ending than any number of formulas that I might follow.