The Impossible Ache of the Creative Soul {Day 2}

Welcome to Day 2 of the On Being Creative series! You’ll find links to all the posts as they’re added on the series’ homepage here.

Day 2Sometimes the calling to create just feels like you’re carrying around an impossible ache. If you feel your belief in the calling to create being squashed by discouragement and doubt, if another day goes by and you feel the sting of wondering what on earth you’re supposed to be doing with this passion of yours, if dreaming has left you downright broken-hearted, this is for you.

This is living in the tension of where you are and where you want to be. This is a hard place to live. It’s easy to get lost here. Lost in the swarm of questions that repeatedly surface, and the fear of both failing AND succeeding (whatever that means).

Sometimes it’s helpful to hear how others answer those questions. Like Ann Voskamp. In her post on why everyone needs to make art every day, she says,

The only trees that ever grow tall keep relentlessly stretching into unknown territory. She’s all limbs reaching up. When did I forget how to be a child?” … You either bury your fear in faith. Otherwise you bury your talents.”

I had forgotten this line. In the midst of my own storm of discouragement that snuck up behind and swept me up recently, I forgot the truth of this brave, faithful reaching- raising my head heavenward. And I felt a forceful urge to bury all my dreams and desires. I thought to myself- I wish I didn’t even want this anymore. I wish I could be rid of it. 

It sounds strange- or maybe acutely familiar- but wrestling with the purpose of our art, the frustration with not knowing the practicality and place for it can leave mounds of mental debris in its wake. For too long that debris accumulated, until the weight felt too much for me any longer.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel such a desperate, insatiable need for my art to have a tangible place in the world if I first lived from the transcending assurance of my place before God. If I instead lived singing “No longer I, it is Christ who lives in me,” and declared it to my art, my soul, my laundry, my everything, then art could just be what it is intended to be again- a tool.

A talent. A servant. 

As much as in that moment I wanted to bury any trace of desire or talent, the fact is, I know I can’t. It’s a fire that won’t go out. It’s a flame shut up in my bones, like Jeremiah’s. Maybe that’s what the hard road of calling is- a fire you feel compelled to walk through, a long inconvenient, and heart-breaking (maybe even sometimes joyful) journey.

But fire is also a place of refining.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:7

Here, Peter is talking about the grief and suffering we deal with now, along with the “living hope” (v3) through the resurrection of Christ, the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and the untouchable inheritance waiting for us.

He goes on to say,

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. – 1 Peter 1:10-12

Maybe he’s not talking explicitly about art, and maybe it’s unclear why this is relevant to a heart broken by the calling to create. But I share it to remind us that we are part of a glorious mystery, something we both do and do not comprehend.

Art takes part of that mystery, too. And just like the prophets, we are called to serve. I don’t know how. I don’t know who.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s ok if you’re heartbroken. It’s ok if you have your own pile of mental debris, if you feel like your art is an exercise in futility. Let’s both remember- art is not about results. (It’s ok if you need to declare it outloud.) Creating and sharing what we create is about serving. And serving is about planting seeds- investing in beauty, in pain, in story, in others.

Results belong to God {and by the way, so does our art}. Because of Christ dwelling in us, everything we do is a wonder- even when we “do” nothing! We are a wonder because we are his, made by his hands, redeemed by his death and resurrection, and miraculously mobilized by his Spirit. This is part of that glorious mystery, the true tall tale into which we are invited.

If you’re so preoccupied by results or the lack thereof, remember: you’re primary calling is to belong to him. Remember that series about enjoyment? Where we remembered that Westminster catechism that says the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever? That. That is your job.

My hope for today’s post is that it would break through the barrier of swarming questions to speak a truth you can receive in the midst of brokenness, doubt, and discouragement.

I love the song below, because it sings courage and cheer into broken places of the creative soul. Give it a listen.


Keep creating, friend. You are the beloved of God. You were made for this. Right now. You’re not missing it. And neither am I. God is too big for that to happen.


Next Up: The One Word that Kills Creativity

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