Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Faith and Art

In the beginning, God created...

The very first words in the Bible, and then the entire first chapter, loudly proclaim that God is creative. Creator God makes stuff! From nothing, God imagined, designed, and then made stars, planets, the deep seas, soaring birds, elephants, tulips, weeping willows...and, as the pinnacle of his work, God made humans in his own image, male and female, he created them in the image of God.

Part of bearing God's image must then, necessarily, mean that we too are creators. We, too, can imagine, design, and make stuff!  One Christian artist (putting a spin on Hebrews 11:1) says that Art is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen.

Let that land for a moment. If you are a person of faith, a person who knows the God-who-creates (and re-creates in Jesus), then you know what it means to hope in the unseen. Yet, art is an opportunity to make the invisible, visible. Like creation, which declares the glory of God and proclaims his handiwork, art is a tangible expression of our likeness-of-God and it points back to him as the ultimate creator. 

This, to me, is why ART MATTERS, in the midst of trials, death, depression (and good stuff, too!). And, in light of this conviction, if you are a Christian, then I specifically invite you to consider supporting the artists who have given me a home these last 6 years. I don't claim to be particularly talented, but God has blessed me with favor in the theatre community here. Sandbox Theatre creates art like no one else. Our art-making is collaborative, challenging, risky and beautiful. Our artists are messy, talented, brilliant souls who don't know the God that I do but whose work reflects his truth.

This Friday October 25, my husband and I will be enjoying Sandbox's latest original work, This Is A World To Live In. After the show, the entire audience (just 30 people) will stay for a party with the artists. This is an opportunity to comment on the art you've just viewed and speak into the lives of these artists. It's an opportunity, as my friends and fellow Spirit-bearers, to make Christ evident, to bring the church to the world rather than expect the world to come to us. As an added incentive, everyone who attends this event will receive a commemorative pint glass, Sandbox window cling, a free admission pass to the Walker, and a free NiceRide pass. Plus, it will be a damn good party, and Christians ought to be known as the greatest party people on the planet!

Tickets are $30 and should be reserved ahead of time here. There are 12 other performances ($20 tickets) between now and Nov 16 if you can't make it on Friday. If I can, I will join you on any night!

Browse through the Sandbox Magazine to get a feel for the artists and hear their stories. Come to our show, party with us, and MAKE ART.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Makeover Monday: From the Heart

"I have something kind of hard that I have to say to you. And I'm really nervous to say it."

I was surprised. My friend and I had been enjoying a meal and meaningful conversation for the last couple of hours, and, as I thought we were closing our time, she suddenly shared this news. I was surprised, not just that she had waited so late into the evening to bring it up, but also that she was so hesitant about it. This is a woman I respect, confide in, and know to be quite firm in her convictions. What could possibly be so difficult for her to say to me?

My friend needed to confront me, and, like most people, she wasn't particularly excited about it. Confrontation is frightening because we don't know how the other person will respond to our words and we risk hurting her (and our friendship) by bringing up an area of weakness in her life. Exactly how we want to spend Friday nights with our pals, right?
Let me tell you a secret about me, though. If I hurt, offend, or wrong you in any way, or if you see me hurting, offending, or wronging another person, I feel loved when you confront me about it.

As my friend was tripping over her words and gently phrasing her concern about me, my heart was actually filling with joy. I felt honored that she took the time to sit with me and speak honestly about a flaw in my character. I felt thankful that I had a friend like her, who cared about my edification and my reputation as a minister of the gospel. And I felt humbled by the truth in her words. Having a mirror held up to your mess isn't very pretty. But it's how we can start cleaning it up.

In my case, I have ALOT that needs cleaning! (Thank God for his grace) The irony of me feeling loved as she confronted me is that her confrontation was about how I hurt people. With my words. Often.

Now, I've known this about myself, and my husband of 13 years has done quite alot of work to help me grow in this area. With him and the Holy Spirit, I've come a loooooong way (by his judgment). But it's still obviously an issue because a number of other people had shared ways I had hurt them with my friend; so many, in fact, that she finally felt compelled to confront me about it. (Thank God for his grace)

She provided specific examples of situations in which I had been hurtful and unkind, but we didn't stop there. Because the benefit of having a true friend confront me is that I can sort through not just my outward behavior (my words) but also ask questions about the inner cause (my heart). Acknowledging that my friend was right about those circumstances was the easy part. The real work was processing what was happening in my heart to even bring those words to the surface.

Of course it is difficult to hear that I had (unintentionally) caused other people pain. But if all I did was apologize for my words without understanding their source in my heart, then I wouldn't have the opportunity to change. Which is why it is so loving to confront one another, why the Bible says that the wounds of a friend are faithful.  Confrontation is not just a step towards reconciliation (forgiving one another), it should have as its goal sanctification (being formed more into Christ) .

I am on a lifelong journey towards holiness and I need faithful friends who will admonish me in wisdom and exhort me every day, so that I am not deceived about my own sin. I am so thankful that my friend loved me enough to name the works of my flesh and call me towards the work of the Spirit. God has used her (more than once) to "make me over" in his image!

What about you? How has God used faithful friends to work on your heart? How have you responded when he has called you to confront someone?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Isn't God Enough?

My recent post on depression generated such a response that I felt it necessary to follow up by addressing a problematic question that has plagued the church on this issue. Many of you commented that the topic of depression is taboo in the church, and that, as a whole, the church has often approached depressed people by telling us that God should be enough.

While I understand the (hopefully) genuine ignorance behind the question, I'd like to challenge the church to consider that asking a depressed person why God isn't enough is like saying -
  • to the single woman who desires to be married - "You don't need a husband to be fulfilled. Be thankful that you are married to Jesus. Isn't he enough?"
  • to the couple struggling with infertility - "You can be happy without kids. God has a good plan for you. Isn't he enough?"
  • to the unemployed person - "God will provide all your needs. Trust him more. Isn't he enough?"
  • to the woman whose husband ignores her heart - "Jesus is your perfect bridegroom. Be satisfied in him. Isn't he enough?"
You can see where I'm going with this. We could justifiably ask this question to any person struggling in any situation.

Because the answer to all these questions is YES. 
Yes, Jesus fills up my soul in a way that my husband, children, job, or any other thing in this world cannot satisfy.
Yes, Jesus is enough to bring me from death into true life.
Yes, Jesus is the only one I can look to to give rest to my soul.

So, yes, Jesus is enough. AND...
We can't find him alone. 

Remember the Garden of Eden? The perfect place on earth? God created Adam there. ONE person, who walked with God face to face, with nothing hindering their relationship. In fact, God was all that Adam had for companionship.

Yet, God decided that it was not good for the man to be alone.

Wait - how is Adam alone? ISN'T GOD ENOUGH for the man?

You see, God didn't create Eve so that God could have another person to hang out with. He created the woman for the man (and the man for the woman) so that they could be like each other in their humanness and work together toward common goals. Even though Adam had unlimited access to God, he still had a need for a human connection.

Now, I am no psychologist and I don't know the biological factors that play into depression. But I have a theory. First of all, I am absolutely certain that if life had continued on as God had intended in the Garden, then there would be no depression (as well as no infertility, unemployment, or jerky spouses). So we must acknowledge that our circumstances are affected by brokenness and sin.

Which leads me to also suspect that:
  • if I never felt spiritually alone - never felt distant from God
  • if I never felt emotionally alone - never felt misunderstood or disconnected from the people around me
  • if I never felt physically alone - never walked through a trial or had a hard day by myself 
Then I might not also experience depression. Because in the Garden, we walked with God. In the Garden, we were "naked and unashamed". In the Garden, we had perfect companionship. And since we are no longer able to enjoy any of those blessings perfectly, all the time, we suffer. Some of us suffer from depression. And while Jesus is enough to reconcile us to God so that we no longer have to suffer that separation (although, in our sin, we still do), he also intends to reconcile the church to one another so that we do not suffer from emotional and physical aloneness.

I'm still learning what true, Christlike community looks like. And I have hope that if the church can learn to rest in our identity as the family of God and move towards one another in consistent, persistent, unashamed togetherness, then perhaps, someday, we will no longer need anti-depressants. As we press on toward the call of God in Christ, as we preach the gospel to each other, and as we confess our sins to one another, I have hope that we will experience the fact that JESUS IN US is enough.

So the next time that you learn about someone in your life with depression, instead of asking her why God isn't enough, ask God how YOU can help be God-in-flesh.