Expressing your Christian testimony to advance the Kingdom of God is a crucial aspect of your role as an artist. Your Christian testimony is as unique as your fingerprint, wielding more power that you may ever fully understand.
Perhaps like me, you've wandered through life, down rambling paths chasing your own inclinations and plans. Sometimes those paths brought pleasing interludes and great joy. At other times you may have been troubled by wasted hours and lost opportunities. If you've lived long enough, your journey invariably brought you face to face with sorrow and unwelcome trouble. Did you attempt to tackle all of it on your own, like I did? Stubborn independence from others and from God is an inherent part of our humanity.
In life’s journeys, hard lessons are learned slowly - things don’t always go our way. People disappoint. Continual assertion of our rights becomes tiresome. Tragedy and inexplicable pain visit us, circumstances become oppressive and God seems far away. You are not alone - I've had those trying times too.
Eventually we were forced to face our own imperfections, first with disgust and then resignation. When a sort of helplessness set in, the miracle of our Christian testimony began.
Someone told us about Jesus and we were ripe for His work in our lives. No longer cocky or certain of our ways, we were finally ready to accept Him as 'The Way'.
Our Christian testimony is about the transformation that He brought into each of our lives – a change that we were powerless to effect ourselves.
So how do we tell about this in our art? If we were to speak or write about it, we could distill it into an effective short speech or a concise essay.
Art, being non-verbal, is actually an exciting and limitless medium for expressing this testimony. To tap into this bottomless well of creative story-telling here is a simple exercise for you to try.
Your Christian testimony can be a study in contrasts, just as your life is.
Who were you before and who are you now?
• Write out as many adjectives as you can come up with that captures some of these contrasts. Make two lists that are a 'before' and 'after' snapshot of you.
• Work rapidly as you do this; do not edit those that seem absurd or far fetched. Simply write out everything that pops into your mind.
• Look for quantity and don't worry about repetitious adjectives. Include them all. Make a game of it – how many can you come up with before you run out?
Here's my quick and partial list of adjectives describing who I was before Jesus. Please bear in mind that in both lists below, I am not implying that I've completely overcome in any or all these areas - how I wish that were true!! I am a work in progress!
Self-centered, hopeless, found life futile, meaningless and purposeless, lazy, without vision, unkind, cruel, selfish, thoughtless, tactless, rude, mean, wasteful, idle, lost, bewildered, fearful, fretful, helpless, rash, forceful, competitive, stingy, miserly, ignorant, stupid, disrespectful, nasty, sloppy, harsh, self-righteous, boastful, proud, self-indulgent, greedy, covetous, pitiful, judgmental, sad, tired, depressed, flat, dry, worthless, timid…
Now here's a peek at the list that truly delights me. This is who I am becoming!
Hopeful, joyful, redeemed, fearless, energized, determined, persistent, courageous, hardworking, healed, free, unconcerned (about temporal circumstances), gentle, more generous, more compassionate, more tolerant, peaceful, powerful in prayer, strong, steadfast, eternal minded, wise, smart, stoic, stalwart, loyal, faithful, innocent, bought with a price, destined for the throne, patient, free of grudges, purposeful, important, created special, loved, cared for, watched over, held, prepared, unmoved by troubling circumstances....
I have changed much, and there is much growth to look forward to! This exercise helped me become gratefully aware of the wonder of my Christian testimony. Such change could never have happened without the supernatural work of His Spirit in me! I did not choose to intentionally change. I could not have successfully planned, or contrived, to do so. Instead, Jesus changed me quietly from within.
If you are new to the faith, don’t worry. Welcome His Spirit to change you, and He will.
As you do this exercise, consider it the master list of your Christian testimony. Frequently you will find yourself thinking of a new word to add to it. It may be something that you struggle with, or some new way discovered within you, which to your amazement, is now somewhat Christ-like.
This simple exercise is more powerful than is at first apparent. What you have done is to describe the foundations of your Christian testimony.
This surely pleases God, because you have just honored His encouragement to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1Pet 3:15
Taking the time for this exercise forces you to evaluate and truthfully assess the work of Christ in your life. By keeping the output to staccato words, written rapidly, you have little time for grandiose or pretentious reflections. Truth resides where it can be quickly accessed and this exercise stimulates its swift retrieval. Your own list of adjectives will form the verbal foundation of your Christian testimony.
Set this aside because something unusual happens next as you return to your art.
Instead of standing paralyzed before a blank canvas with the question most artists dread - "What shall I paint (or create) today?" you will find these words pop up in your mind, begging for abstract, visual expression. I doubt that you'll have to refer to your list, since it will already be a part of you!
In Rooted and Grounded, the acrylic painting on the top of the page, I chose to express that very change, which came slowly at great cost to my Savior and of enormous worth to me. At each stage of the work, I had no clear direction on how to proceed. Holding in my heart, my love for this kind and gentle Savior, who gave His all for me, I hesitantly searched the images out onto the surface of the painting.
I hope that as you work on this exercise, you too will find ways to create art, rich with meaning, telling your own unique and powerful story.