I recently watched a gymnast perform. She was technically correct and perhaps even Olympics material, but there was one vital part missing: heart. As she presented her routine, she had a look of almost terror on her face. She wasn’t smiling; she looked scared. Something was driving her more than just the mere performance. By all appearance, she had to do it and feared she couldn’t. I had pity for her rather than any admiration for what she was doing.
The next day, I went to an exhibit of an artist that is becoming one of my favorites. He’s technically perfect but in addition to that, he does something quite amazing—he narrates with paint. He doesn’t just paint portraits of people, he reveals their life and soul. If you have eyes to see, he is revealing their personalities in oil. It’s simply phenomenal.
The Art of 2 Craftsmen
As I considered these two craftsmen in a side by side comparison, I saw something remarkable. You can be technically perfect yet fail to make art. It doesn’t matter what your trade, you can make art – carpenter, orator, writer, painter, doctor, businessman, even parent. Any trade can be more than a simple task or job and become art. And what makes you a master and truly outstanding is this—love and heart.
That poor gymnast will never win a gold metal as she is, because she’s mastered by mastering her trade, rather than giving herself to it. She is a prisoner of her trade, not someone who’s free to make art. And what was missing from her performance was an abandoned heart. Once you have mastered a craft, to go the next step and become truly exceptional, you must give your heart over to it. It’s this way with everything in life. The painter was an artist, and a great one, because he was sentient, alive and heart-engaged. The gymnast wasn’t, so she reflected pain not beauty.
Art in Whatever We Do
When I say this relates to everything, I believe that. Everything. We can be artists in whatever we do. And I contend that unless we are, we will never make a true impact. We may live, we may even touch another’s life, but we will never express greatness or beauty. And this doesn’t have to do with an audience or external admiration. You can be an artist in things most unseen. Artistic greatness is not found in the acknowledgement of accomplishment, it is making art with that over which you have influence. This isn’t limited to paintings or dance! It’s when proficiency of a task or job goes beyond performance and emanates from your heart and spirit instead. If art is evidenced by those who are not even particularly godly, what about the spiritual man?
This is especially true with our spiritual life. I can master scripture through memory, I can conquer creed with study, but to be artful in my spiritual life, I must engage my heart. The heart engaged is the stroke of art. So many live this Christian life like that gymnast – technically correct but with no beauty. The heart must be engaged in the life. I must dance with the flute and mourn with the dirge. Art and fulfillment happen when I let the Master Craftsman move my life to make beauty! And whether a single soul sees my art or not, my Father’s eyes delight in the beauty.
…every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work.
Exodus 36:2 ESV