I started attending ceramic classes the year I moved to the Middle East.
I went because I loved it, but it had the added excuse of being good for learning language and culture, the phase that we were in at the time. When it came time to church plant, I gave up my artwork because, as a friend of mine wisely said, “Ah, creativity. I love it too. But that’s not what we’re here for, is it?”
A year later I guiltily went back to the course because I missed it and I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I should be there. But within a few months as life and ministry pressures grew, I once again let it drop.
It felt like a tug of war. I couldn’t stand the feeling of being divided in my focus. But I also felt bad that I was wasting my time on something I loved when I should really be getting on with the proper mission of church planting that I had come for. My artistic journey got shelved.
A few months later, in 2013, we came back to the UK to attend the Catalyst Festival. When I walked into the main foyer I was shocked to see it had been made into an art gallery. My inner reaction was a strong one. “Why are we wasting our time on art when we’re really here for Bible study and worship? We need more theology seminars, not these creative workshops…”
At that moment I heard the Holy Spirit speak. “You see,” He said, “it’s that attitude that’s stopping you doing your art.” I was stunned. It was true. But might God actually want me to do art, then? My breath caught in my throat. Could this thing I secretly loved be close to God’s heart too?
I walked into the main meeting hall and the worship time began. Eyes closed, musicians playing, I pictured God welcoming me into his beautiful house. He showed me around room after room of stunning furnishings and lavish decor. He then led me into a hallway which had been transformed into an art exhibition. As we walked along the hall, I glanced at each artist’s work, section by section, and examined their portfolios. What fun! Then I stopped dead as I looked up and saw a section marked with my name. I held my breath as my eyes traveled to the wall… what would be there? What would I be remembered for? What of my work had God displayed?
The wall was completely empty.
Shock. Embarrassment. Grief. Regret. An empty wall.
Then God looked me directly in the eye and said, “I’m waiting for your work. Do it for me. Do it for my house.”
Pursuing my artwork whilst church planting still feels like a tug of war. It’s still hard to work with a split focus. But now I know that my creative contribution is commissioned by God and is a valuable part of building His house too. I’m keeping going, so that the next time I see my space on His wall, it sure as anything won’t be empty any more!