Living, Breathing Art

By September 24, 2009 culture, faith, language No Comments

Breath for the Bones Book Club: Thoughts on Chapter 1

Art is a window into the soul of its creator. In the finished painting or poem or sculpture, we receive a glimpse of the interior world of the artist. And when the art is nature, there we find treasured secrets of the Mystery that holds this world together.

The secrets we gain of the artist’s heart—especially God’s—is the basis of the first chapter in Luci Shaw’s Breath for the Bones, aptly titled “Discovering the Creative Heart of God.” Shaw touches in various ways upon the grandeur of God’s creative work, especially in nature.

With the chapter’s fodder fresh in my mind, nature became more pronounced to me this week. While out in its midst, I’ve whispered longingly to the Lord to show me the wonders of His hand that I might also know something more of His heart.

On one outing, my eye was enthralled with wild grasses, shaggy with ripened grain-like blooms. Another day, I watched fingers of fog hover just a few feet above fields of golden corn—how does it do that? And one afternoon, I relished the steady beating of rain on my roof—why does that sound so soothe the soul?

Engaging creation like this makes for a more stable me. The sun offers its warmth, and my skin drinks in the health it provides. The breeze tousles my hair and somehow carries away the weight of my worries. The horizon reminds me that the world is bigger than me and I am not expected to manage it all. Nature speaks of something greater, reminding me of God and His care.

Nature speaks loudly of who God is; I can hear it if I will take the time to listen.

And there’s the rub. In our live-fast world, time is scarce, and I forget to listen. I also forget that I am like the sun and breeze and horizon—I too am created, and in my essence I am to speak loudly of my Creator. All of creation echoes of the grandeur of God, and it matters not that sun and horizon and trees and mountain do not have vocal chords—all speak of God’s glory:

“The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” —Isaiah 55:12

Nature is doing its part to proclaim the excellencies of God and His art. Art made by human hands reminds us to do ours—it reminds me who God is and who I am. It reminds me that I am living, breathing art. Shaw says:

Many fundamentalists have a stunted view of art as something nonessential. . . . In so doing they ignore the gratuitous beauty . . . that the Creator included in creation, and the sense with which he endowed us so we can respond to that beauty. To have a functioning cosmos would have seemed enough. Beauty is an added bounty, and because the benefactor is divine, we ignore or disdain beauty at our peril. (Shaw, 8–9)

When we ignore the beauty of God’s art—namely nature and humans—it is to our peril, for therein we forget who we are: God’s masterpiece, His magnum opus. If we forget, we fail to value His work: Nature is unappreciated and wasted; people become ugly enemies.

Despite what fundamentalists may think, art is essential. We need art to remind us to stop our frenzied living and look with awe at all that God has made, trees and humans and fog and bugs.

That awe should then move us to praise God, just as the crowds did more than 2,000 years ago as they followed the Lord Jesus into Jerusalem:

“As [Jesus] was approaching . . . the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: ‘BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, ‘Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.’ But Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!’ ” —Luke 19:37–40

It is right to praise God for the miracles we have seen. Nature is just one such miracle. Art reminds me of others. God’s creativity is alive in all His miracles: creation, creature, and cross. Yes, the crowd’s response to the Lord’s entrance at Jerusalem was spot-on. God is worthy of a shout.

I’m not about to let those rocks out-shout me.

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