The Soul Tells a Story
I've started reading the book The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity With Spirituality in the Writing Life, by Chicago-based author Vinita Hampton Wright. After one just chapter, I'm convinced this is a boon I've been seeking in my own journey of merging my faith with my art.
Wright encourages readers to not only recognize, develop and unleash their creativity, but to recognize how "creative work is spiritual at its heart." Many of us, she writes, "sense that our soul has become fragmented by the cultural (and personal) separation of creativity from spirituality, and we want to experience them to greater integration."
I've certainly observed and tasted such fragmentation first-hand, especially within the Protestant church where there is a tendency to drill things down to formulas and rigid categories of acceptance. Mystery is often divorced from worship, teaching and proclamation.
Too much creative expression by people of faith in the arenas of writing, music, theater, etc., has been hindered or watered-down out of fear that it might push too much of the envelope. And yet, as Wright reminds us, "Artists are put on earth to explore, to push the boundaries, to ask yet more questions and sometimes to do away with--or at least challenge--traditional assumptions." Such a willingness to grapple with these questions, the author warns, will inevitably "unnerve people who banned serious questions from their life years ago."
The key for artists who also happen to be particularly spiritual or religious is to keep things honest. Characters must be allowed to agonize over the questions, struggles, joys and temptations that the real people around us face every day. Lyrics must speak to ubiquitous longings of the heart. Otherwise, we offer both tepid art and naive theology.
We are far more likely to glorify God when giving ourselves permission to creatively explore uncertainty, because we trust that God is big enough to handle it--and, in the end, our faith only grows richer. Creativity is God's gift, and he wants all of his gifts used to their fullest on this side of eternity.