Rounding the corner at work, I noticed some new artwork displayed in one of the hallway display cases. The multi-colored exhibit enticed me so I stopped to take a closer look. Scanning the projects, I looked down to discover that my 14 year old daughter’s artwork was sitting prominently in the middle. I felt my heart skip a beat as I admired her work. (Side note: I work at a school….the same school my daughters attend.)
The written explanation of her creation immediately brought tears to my eyes:
“In my dream, I jumped into a pool of water and realized that I couldn’t swim. I started drowning, but then Jesus jumped in and saved me. This happened three times, and each time Jesus saved me. The very bottom of the pool was like an ocean, and there were creepy mermaids swimming around broken cars. The giant hand represents God not letting me drown.”
Earlier today, I felt like I was drowning. I was weary, tired, and emotional, struggling with an issue that seems to be my Achilles heel, and if life had been a pool of water, I was paddling as hard as I could, but sinking fast.
As I stood in the quiet hallway, studying the hand rescuing that drowning girl, I was comforted by the truth of it all. And I chuckled to myself as I thought that in this dream, my daughter jumped in the same pool three times even though she couldn’t swim, and I considered how I find myself in this same predicament over and over again. I don’t tend to add variety to my struggles: for some reason I just keep going back to the same ones over and over again.
I took a deep breath, felt life pouring back into my tired soul, and walked back to my office holding my head a little higher. I thanked God for the way He used my daughter’s art to encourage me and couldn’t wait to hug her and tell her.
At the end of the day, she walked into my office and after a minute or two of small talk, I told her that I saw her beautiful artwork and how much it meant to me and what an incredible job she did and was that a recent dream?
She immediately dismissed every compliment I gave her and explained that if I really wanted to see impressive artwork, I should go down the art hallway to see one of the senior’s amazing work.
I felt that life start oozing right back out of me.
My heart shrugged, and I turned back to my computer to answer an email. Mid-sentence though, I saw that dream plate in my head and looked at my daughter. I told her how excited I had been to tell her the difference her art had made in my day. I explained that she might not feel like her work is as good as someone else’s and she might want to point out every way that her art isn’t all that it should be, but I wanted her to know that God used her art to speak truth to me today. I mentioned that I saw the senior’s amazing artwork and was moved by the beauty, but it was HER beautiful art that God used to teach and encourage me today.
Why do we not believe that God can use our “art” whether we think it is worthy of His using it or not? In her outstanding book, A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman says that we are all artists, whether we believe it or not. She explains that artists “pull back the covering on our inner life, allowing us to see things beneath the surface, things that, without their compassion, creativity, and generosity, we may have missed”(p.14-15). She writes that not only were we “born to make art,” but we were “also made to live art.”
“Perhaps those who make art in the ways we traditionally think of art give the rest of us a framework from which to live our lives. They offer a gift of knowing what life could look like if it were handled more like a mysterious piece of art rather than a task-oriented list. We may not all have the same skill or training as do the painters or the musicians, but we all bear the creative image of God….Being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive….You have the capacity to perform the human act of making art, of doing work that comes from deep within you that touches something deep within me. We make art with our lives” (A Million Little Ways, p.20-21).
The morning of my drowning day, it was about 5 degrees. I bundled up and walked down the hill to pick up several Starbucks coffees for a meeting and probably looked like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I stood in line and saw a familiar face behind the cash register. I always like when this employee takes my order and enjoy how she always takes the time to make conversation with me even if 45 other customers are demanding their caffeine. I gave her the order, and she asked, “Nothing for you today?”
I shrugged, “No, I’m good. Just coffee for others today.”
She waved her hand at me and grinned, “No, really. It’s on the house!”
As she grabbed a cup and wrote my order from memory, my cold face started emerging from my scarf with a smile. I think all I said was something like, “Really?? THANK YOU!” but inside I was thinking, “She knows my drink from memory! And somehow she knew how much I needed that today.” Just in doing her job well, this woman made art. She touched something deeper in me and made a difference in my day.
What if we all lived like we were artists? What if the seemingly mundane moments in our day really matter? What would it take for you to believe that the art you were created to make really does make a beautiful difference?