Last week I wrote about how the painting process invites me to live out my true self and silence the lies of the false self. I want to share a few more insights I’ve been learning about this, but as I do I want to invite you to consider:
What has God been using in your life to uncover the true self and melt the false self away? I believe He does this process through each of us differently. He is always about freeing us from that which binds us, allowing us to experience true life. And my guess is this story of redemption is hidden in yours somewhere too. We just have to be willing to look for it.
Here's how He's been transforming me through the act of creating:
1. The false self feeds off timely products, but the creative impulse will not yield to timeframes. A painting will only come alive when I have slowed down enough to notice it, to respond to it, and when I am at peace. It cannot be rushed. It will not yield to my obsession to finish it – it will only be finished when it’s ready to be finished and it doesn’t respond well to nagging. Annoying, but true.
Life lesson: I’ve noticed that sometimes God doesn’t allow us to “finish” a season, or “arrive” where we hope to until we’ve stopped enough to notice and learn in the process. When we want to get that job, or figure out what to major in, or meet our spouse, or be healed, or...whatever it is that we think is “it.” It’s possible that in this season, you’re still in process and you won’t know what the “product” is until much later. And truth be told, the product and how it comes may look far different than you imagined – but far more beautiful in the end because of what God did in the process.
2. The false self is defined by what I produce. But creative productivity or “doing” must flow out of my being – not the other way around. As I paint or write, I have nothing to prove, only to be. My self is laid bare and vulnerable, and I cannot authentically create from any other place. I cannot hide behind a to-do list, busying myself in finishing tasks that show my worth. Instead, the surrounding achievements must fall to the background as I get in touch with what my inner voice is saying - and my Creator through that voice. In order to do this, I have to stifle my inner striving and learn how to unfold in the midst of solitude and silence. Rather than obsessing with the end goal, I am required to immerse myself in the work. And as I do – I find myself and find the work at the same time.
Life lesson: I believe God cares far more about who we are becoming as we produce than what we produce. If this were not so, He would not be content with allowing us to fail and fall so often. But it is often in the falling that we shed off what is not really us, acknowledge how frail we are, and thereby allow something deeper, more significant, and beautiful to breathe through us. This is where we find our true selves – swept up into the mystery of His life expanding through our weakness.
3. The false self clings to control and independence. Creating forces me to let go of control and invite collaboration.
In the place of quiet and stillness, amidst the rushing thrill and joy of creating, God teaches me to surrender my defiant will so that He can work His through my story.
When I try to resist and do it my way – when I try to make it about someone else, or something else, or force my own will onto it – my pieces either fall apart or stop breathing.
So I have been learning the art of staying present as the work unfolds, pushing myself aside so that someone more capable can take over – the child within me that Jesus says the Kingdom belongs to. The one who takes the world in with wonder and collaborates more easily with a Creator that doesn’t conform to our expectations.
The painting process is a lot like a subconscious conversation between the work, the Holy Spirit, and me. As I begin to put acrylic on claybord, I am never really sure what is going to happen. I have to go in with a level of unhindered freedom and attentive curiosity at the same time – like a child. Sometimes I have a direction of what the piece will be about, but sometimes I don’t. In either case, there is a back and forth conversation going on in the ebbs and flows between the paint and the surface, the voice within me, and my response in the midst of these things. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish all of these from one another because they flow so naturally from each other. I imagine that this is a little like how the trinity has a conversation within the godhead.
God is always inviting us to be swept up into the creative process that He is involved in around us. He didn’t just make the world and then set it on a shelf for display. It’s continually in motion - in the act of being created, recreated, and unfolded as we speak.
He is intimately involved all the time - molding and shaping, writing and directing, and singing our stories into being. And we are invited to either collaborate with Him in this work or resist it. But if we resist by our independence of the false self, we will miss out on the collaboration. My false self is too busy trying to finish things; she can’t stop to notice what’s happening around her, within her, or outside of her. I believe God is fighting for this voice to be silenced so that I can listen for the softer, more authentic voice within – the voice that isn’t trying to become God, but is trying to respond to Him.