By Peter Kong
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills — to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” – Exodus 31:1-5
My first thought when reading this passage was, “If only God had given ME such an explicit and well-defined commission to create art!” But where would the challenge be in that?
Fostering and practicing art, for those of us not named Bezalel, can be a tricky, elusive, and sometimes frustrating endeavor. Some of us agonize over whether we were meant to be artists at all, or how to balance our art practice with paying rent or saving for a house. Others stare over their canvases clutching brushes and keyboards, fretting that the next project will collapse in failure, or never happen at all.
God values art and wants His people to make it — we know that from Exodus 31. But how can each of us create and foster art in the best way? The Center for Faith & Work’s Faith & Art Course seeks to address these highly individual questions in a group setting, where people can share and critique their art and discuss the challenges of letting the light of Christ shine through their work out into a world that doesn’t always understand or appreciate it.
I am grateful for three things I found during this course: encouragement, community, and perspective.
I found encouragement through meeting with 25 other artists every week who were willing to brave record-cold February weather to listen to my work, critique it, and pray about it. A group of people asking the one true Muse to watch over me and bless me in my art practice. Amazing! I was elated to do the same for them.
Similarly, community: remember the feeling you had when you walked out from an incredible show or game and couldn’t help but talk and laugh with the strangers around you about how amazing it was? They were no longer truly strangers, because of the shared experience. One feels the same way when in a room full of brothers and sisters in Christ who have dedicated their lives to glorifying God. Because of our shared faith, we found a wonderful continuity between the poetry, fiction, film, paintings, and performances that would not otherwise have been so compelling.
Finally, perspective: I learned that dedicating my art practice to God yields an incredible amount of freedom and creativity. If you are committed to serving Christ through dance, why not incorporate a ballet movement into a church service, as Roberto, my course colleague, is doing? (And David danced before the Lord with all his might, 2 Samuel 6:9). Or why not riff on God’s natural creation and build a beautiful sculpture from a living tree, as Lili has done? (He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them Psalm 146:6). If you practice art to glorify God, you no longer need to confine your art to the pressures, tastes, and whims of other people. The possibilities are truly endless. Now go practice.