A Feast for Starving Artists

I hope you always stay a starving artist.

Whether you are commercially successful or not, the notion of a starving artist is a popular stereotype in our culture. It's a mythic stance filled with contradictions and inherent tensions. For some artists who have creatively and financially struggled for years, the starving artist mantle can become a tired-looking cloak of faded dreams, heartbreaking setbacks and worn-out enthusiasms.

The danger here is adopting a poverty mindset and misshapen identity through the loss of heart.

For other artists who achieve varying degrees of commercial success, they may no longer be starving artists, but all too often, they're labeled sell-outs to commercialization, monetization and marketing to the fickle needs of the hungry masses. To be fair, some of these artists are sell-outs because their work is saccharine, derivative, and popular for the wrong reasons.

Though money may be in the bank, an artist who sells out is producing bankrupt art starving for originality.

For artists who are commercially successful because they are producing truly good work that is being rewarded for it's integrity, quality and unique voice, these artists stand in the awkward tension of letting their work speak for itself without having to defend it and at the same time, enjoying the financial fruits of their labors knowing full well someone could have been chosen instead of them.

Whatever level of success or lack of success you've had, I hope you always stay a starving artist.

By daily recognizing your true need and deep hunger for something more than commercial success, you just might find (or at least be reminded) that there is a daily feast prepared for you, the starving artist.

Can you imagine a table set for you every day that you don't have to work for, achieve or prove yourself?

At The Grove, we make a big deal about setting a table for artists. We are often asked what happens at our monthly Grove Gathering. What makes them work? What's it like bringing together visual artists, musicians, actors, writers, filmmakers, photographers, designers and chefs -- artists across the board?

Our answer is simple: Food.

Food in not our only answer, but creating a feast for starving artists is always a really good place to start. And we're not talking a bag of chips thrown on the table. Or some salmonella-filled carton of day-old potato salad bought at the deli for tomorrow's church potluck. Great food is our way of honoring one another, engaging our senses, and establishing authentic relationships that meets far more needs than commercial success alone.

Food is also the great equalizer. If you walk into a new setting and know no one, if the food is great, at least you have something to enjoy and talk about it. This meal is amazing!

In so many encounters Jesus has with people, so much begins and ends at the table. Jesus regularly speaks to the heart's true hunger over a meal. The setting is a room. A field. A feast. A wedding. A Passover. We see Jesus surrounding himself with sinners desperate for true life and wholeness.

A quick dash through the Gospels reveals miracle after miracle before, during and after meals. In Luke 19, Jesus has the audacity to invite himself over to Zacchaeus' home. The crowd grumbles because Jesus makes himself the guest of a notorious sinner. And who more with a deeper need for acceptance and forgiveness than the tax-stealing thief Zacchaeus?

When all the tax collectors and sinners drew close to Jesus to listen to him, the major gripe of the Pharisees was that Jesus received sinners (i.e. welcomed them, honored them, spent time with them) and ate with them. While Jesus is reclining at Simon's table, who anoints him with expensive perfume? Mary, a sinner.

On the night of his betrayal, Jesus is the Passover party-planner. Can you imagine that? He is planning his own Passover when he is the Passover Lamb! Gathered around the Passover feast before them and reclining on pillows, Jesus looks across the room and says to his friends, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." (Luke 22:15) I love that line... Jesus eagerly desires to share a meal with his friends.

And after Jesus' death and resurrection, in Peter's grief, guilt, and confusion, we see he's gone back to his old life... fishing. It's all he's ever really known. And as Peter and the boys are left without sleep and empty nets, where do we find Jesus?

Standing on the beach next to a campfire with fresh baked bread and roasted fish.

If you've ever gotten out of the water after a chilly morning of surfing, the first things you want are warmth and hot food. Lots of it! That's exactly the meal Jesus has prepared for his hungry friends. Note: A meal comes before Peter's restoration. Christ always establishes love, safety and acceptance within relationship first before addressing the broken aspects of that relationship. What better of a setting than around a meal?

Christ on the beach around the warmth of a campfire is such a beautiful picture of breaking bread among friends. Can you imagine the stories told around that campfire? It's so... so not religious. Why don't we see that painting in Church? Just visualizing the bread and the fish baking on the fire makes my mouth water!

There are so many wonderful stories of Christ at the table. As you recently celebrated Christ's death and resurrection this past Easter, I hope you will always stay a starving artist. An artist who deeply hungers for the meal already prepared for you. You don't have to wait for your heart to be full and your soul satisfied.

Christ bids you come now to the table. He is the true bread and true wine your heart hungers for.

It's quite a feast for starving artists.


Question: What visual images and stories in the Gospels speak to you the most about Christ's invitation to join him at the table? What keeps you hungry and seeking God to satisfy your deepest desires?

I'd love your thoughts, ideas and comments.