Last week, I talked about bearing fruit and performing, and how they are often seemingly at odds with each other. And also- that “perform” often conjures ideas of self-promotion and self-glorification.
Which is icky, right? And I don’t want to be icky. I just want to create meaningful beauty that somehow- impossibly- becomes more than it is.
I want the beauty of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Because when He is present in the moments of our art, heaven breaks through to earth a little more.
I know it, because that’s exactly what happened on Sunday night.
A few weeks ago, my dear kindred spirit friend, Brooke, discovered free tickets to an Andrew Peterson concert outside Indianapolis, and texted me asking if I wanted to go… And then we indulged ourselves in much all-caps and exclamation points and emojis in our seismic excitement!
I left after church Sunday morning, drove the two hours to Indy, had lunch with my parents and some friends, and waited about an hour in which I attempted to pretend I could “rest” (at which I mostly failed) for awhile before leaving to meet up with Brooke.
We headed in the direction of the concert, stopping for an exceedingly fancy dinner at McDonald’s (as per McDonald’s usual), and found that eating was basically superfluous in light of our excitement and joy at being together and getting to experience such a soul-filling event together.
(This is our we’re-so-excited-we-can’t-hold-the-phone-steady selfie.)
It ended up being one of the last concerts on his Burning Edge of Dawn tour. If you haven’t looked up this album, STOP READING THIS and do it ASAP.
This is my favorite song from the album right now, namely because it is all about abiding. When I first heard it a month or so ago, it was such a kairos moment. (You know, the spiritual version of that epic moment in a story when you’re like, NO WAY- That was THAT GUY?!?! Oh, if you click that link, you mostly need to just skip to 1:39… Anyway, you know what I mean? Like, when the whole intricate plot is revealed? Harry Potter fans will here understand what I mean.)
He talked about gardening, and how much he’s learning about God and humanity through it. He mentioned the way you literally have to tear open the earth- like a wound- but that the wound is not the last step. It’s the first. Then comes the seed, which must die in order to bear fruit. And then seasons of waiting and winter and rain must come before the sun warms the earth, before the yield that the gardener harvests.
(Oh, and that’s his 15-year-old son in the middle. How awesome is that?!)
That’s what God does with us, too. And as Andrew (Peterson? Mr. Peterson? Why is that always so weird for me?) said, you don’t often hear a lot of sermons about God the Gardener. We often hear about God as the shepherd, or the fortress, or the savior. All of which are just as true!
But gardener. That paints such an articulate picture of patience, of the steadfast love that tends the rocky soil of the heart.
If we don’t let him dig down deep- if we don’t let him open us up, we can’t let him plant seeds in us. And if the planting happens, so must the dying- of something.
What must die in me, God? Let me give it up! Let me be soil that receives everything from you as good.
Right now, for me, it starts with an inhale. And then an exhale. And then a reading and rereading of these words:
[God] redeems your life from the pit, he surrounds you with grace and compassion, he contents you with good as long as you live, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.” – Psalm 103:4-5
Contents you with good. In all my frazzled, frenetic tendencies, God reminds me to breathe. To let Jesus show me himself in each moment- even and especially my ugliest darkest ones. It’s helping me dwell in this garden, which is more than a season of peace- it’s a place of peace. That doesn’t pass away.
Lately, I’ve been wanting to reorganize and rearrange everything in my home. I realize this sounds like it’s unrelated, but once you start reorganizing, you start Pinteresting organizing methods and looking up the endless cavern of organizing bins and carts and whatnot at IKEA (insert the onslaught of impossible expectations).
And I keep seeing with the sight of scarcity. Looking at what I don’t have and feeling like if only I did have x,y,z then I could achieve what I want. But a) I already have the means to rearrange and reorganize with my current possessions (which number too great for our two-bedroom apartment as it is), and b) even if I did get the things I “need” God has reminded me that it won’t satisfy.
As Brooke and I talked about these things on our way to and from the concert, she said, “Jesus is the ultimate goal.” And it’s SO true! Jesus is the only thing that will satisfy. Not things, not systems of organization, not perfect appearance or perfect performance, not even my “wildest dreams” which I’d imagine look considerably tame next to what God can do through me. He contents me with good.
All this is not just what happened in my heart at an Andrew Peterson concert. But rather, the concert was all part of this movement that God has orchestrated around me lately.
And along with that? I got to witness what it looks like to allow God to bear fruit through a person’s story, through their times of darkness and light. Andrew is a singer-songwriter. And many of the songs on this album were born out of seasons of winter and rain and darkness. But he always proclaims the hope, too. He said, “There’s always a good end to the story.”
This is where a performance is so much more than a performance. It becomes something holy, a safe space for the soul to listen for the Holy Spirit. When a lot of souls do that at once, it’s a kind of communion.
This is so encouraging to me as an artist! In light of it, I feel unencumbered by all the whys and worries about my motives and my appearance and my results. Turns out, the pressure really is off, because results are the business of the Father. My business is to be a faithful, available servant, and to continue creating. Sometimes, what you create isn’t only about you. (Often it isn’t.) Just look at The Sower’s Song, and how God has used it in my life.
And that’s just one song!
I hope this encourages you and me- not just as artists, but as humans- to allow God to tear open our sometimes rocky, sometimes barren, earthy hearts; to plant a seed; to allow a dying so that we can give way to new life. His work does not return void.
Remember- I am not the gardener. And neither are you. Here’s what He has to say to us seedlings, waiting for the sun:
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Will you abide with me in this today? May our souls be tilled with the tender hands of our Father; may we bear fruit.