Are You an Artist in the Wilderness?

     Lake Elsinore sunrise. (Photo by David Zailer)

     Lake Elsinore sunrise. (Photo by David Zailer)

Slavery or the Wilderness? Neither are Desirable Options

Are you in a season of feeling like you're wandering aimlessly around with your art? That you have no traction in your career or that your dreams are in a perpetual state of stall?  Perhaps you recently launched into an ambitious new project, but you've discovered that your new endeavor is going to take much longer, cost more money and require more effort than ever imagined? Do you feel like you're in a constant state of striving instead of thriving?

Maybe this distracted sense of wandering is characterized by relational conflict not unlike the Israelite's hightailing it out of Egypt with Pharaoh and his army in hot pursuit? Conflicts with a spouse, children, professional colleagues and bosses may lead you to feel squeezed in between Pharoah's wrath and the wide expanse of the Red Sea with no way out.

If it's not relational conflict, perhaps it's health issues. Or the illness or recent death of a loved one. Or a nagging addiction or habit you just can't seem to break free from. Or discouragement. Or a sublime sense that you just don't feel as alive as you used to? Maybe you feel overwhelmed and you just can't pin it on any one thing?

The Birth of New Songs

Like everyone else, artists aren't immune to the everyday pressures, conflicts and challenges that are a part of everyday life. However, since many artists have a heightened awareness to their own feelings, perceptions and the environment around them, a season in the wilderness can be more acutely characterized by depression, despondency, or despair. This doesn't mean artists are any weaker or fragile than any set of human beings, but because artists are the storytellers in every society, much of great art is birthed by their capability to pull from the depths of pain and pleasure. It's often from the wilderness come the tests, insights and wisdom that give birth to new songs, films, stories, photos and paintings.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of spending time with a small group of artists at our Grove Artist Getaway. Surrounded by friends and incredible food, we spent the weekend in a beautiful lake home on the shore of Lake Elsinore talking about the similarities between our story and the story of Israel fleeing into the wilderness from the Egyptians. The shoreline and water before us were a fitting reminder of the Exodus journey.

The Importance of Long Conversations

Over long meals and conversations, here are a few of the thoughts we considered.

  • Neither slavery, living under the iron fist of Pharaoh, or fleeing into the wilderness are desirable options. We risk the wilderness for the hope of the Promised Land.

  • Our thoughts -- the voices in our head -- like Pharaoh, can often accuse us of wandering around aimlessly. If not us, then "When are you going to get a real job?!"

  • How soon we forget the words, "The Lord will fight for you..." (Exodus 14:14)

  • Great peace, perspective, creativity, & contentment flow out of stillness.

  • Stillness needs to be cultivated in our lives on a regular basis. "You need only to be still."

  • Whatever our circumstances, like the Israelites, how are we not trusting God to deliver us? How can we remember God's faithfulness in the past to speak to us in the present?

  • The incredible songs of Moses and Miriam were written after great faith, fear and testing. (Ex. 15)

  • How soon grumbling is present after God parts our Red Seas. (Water of Marah in Ex. 15)

  • Juxtapose this: "The Lord is a warrior" and "I am your Healer." (Ex. 15:3, 15:26)

  • God, in His lovingkindness & mercy, leads us to the 12 springs of Elim surrounded by seventy palm trees...ever had a date shake? Oh my...

So Much Happens Around the Table

Taking our cue from the Creator, one way we love to bless artists is to feed and nurture their souls with incredible food, wine, dessert and conversation. Our goal is to create an oasis for artists who will drink deep and find soul rest so their hearts are filled with the good gifts of God's love and grace to share with others. Like Jesus, so much happened around the table. Questions were raised. Problems dealt with. Prayers and blessings shared. Laughter and tears. A banquet table is both picture and promise of the coming Kingdom. To taste and see that the Lord is good... right now... even in the wilderness.

Reminders of the Present Kingdom

To share our lives in community, cultivating our spiritual lives and encouraging one another in the unique creative work God has called us to, this is one way we nudge one another forward, out of the wilderness, and into the Promised Land of God's present Kingdom and in the Kingdom to come.

If you find yourself in the wilderness, for whatever reason, God is with you. He goes before you. Behind you. Above you. Below you. To your right. To your left. And within you. Draw close to the Father's lovingkindness and fondness of you. The springs of Elim are just around the corner.

Questions: What season of life do you are you in? In this season, how can you best cultivate stillness? (Click here now to reply on The Grove blog)

PS: If you liked this post, you might be interested in this free webinar, What Would Jesus Say to Artist's Today?