There’s this thing I’ve noticed about artists.
We have a tendency to criticize our own work. What someone else praises, we cringe at. Where someone else sees a breathtaking work of art, we only see the imperfections.
When we look at what we’ve made, we usually see the flaws.
I think it’s inevitable, to some degree. It might even be a good thing. If we don’t spot the mistakes in our own work, who will? If everyone around you is telling you what a good writer (or singer, or painter, or moviemaker) you are, it’s easy to get puffed up and think your art is the pinnacle of all perfection, and if the editors over at HarperCollins only knew your name you’d be famous in a week.
That’s why I’m glad for people who critique my work. My mom is my go-to proofreader; she can always point out my mistakes. And when I show my dad my photos, he always explains how I could have taken it from a different angle, or cropped it better, or exposed it a little more. I sent an article to a friend recently, and I was thankful for her words of praise; but it was her gentle criticisms that really improved the piece.
Yes, it’s a good thing to see the flaws in your own work.
But what about when that’s all you can see? Is it humility to always say that what you’ve made doesn’t measure up?
The Reason for Art
It would be different if our reason for creating art was so that people would see us. If we were putting our work on the internet just for the sake of pageviews and comments, if we showed it to our friends just so they would think we’re such a good artist, then we would have good reason to worry about every little imperfection.
And that would be a pretty miserable existence, if our own glory was our goal.
But that’s not why we create, is it? We make art for the glory of God.
It sounds cliche, I know that. But think – everything we make reflects our God in some way. Every good story, every poem, song, drawing, painting, movie, it says that there is a God. And He is –
Because if there wasn’t a God, or He wasn’t these things, what place would there be for art? If there isn’t any meaning or hope, what are we even writing (or drawing or acting) about?
We create, because we are made in the image of the Creator God and we want to make something that will reflect who He is.
The Imperfection of Art
And here’s another thing – our art is never going to be perfect.
We are human. Unlike God, we’re not perfect in our power or our goodness or even our beauty. And we weren’t made to be – we’re not supposed to be just like Him. So whatever we create will only imperfectly reflect His perfect beauty and truth.
But shattered glass
And troubled water
Still reflect the stars.
Even these imperfect, faltering steps of ours can still bring glory to His name.
The Sufficiency for Art
This doesn’t mean we slack off, and it doesn’t mean that we settle for any less than our very best. “…do all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Work hard, sometimes a lot harder than you want to, and make it the best that you can make it – because our Lord and Savior both deserves and commands our all.
But in the end, can we take any credit for it? Not really. In Romans 12:6 Paul says,
“Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.”
Not in our own strength. According to the grace given to us. Anything I have, anything I am, is only because of God’s grace.
In that same chapter, a bit earlier, Paul says that we shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think, but,
“…think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Rom 12:2)
Not more highly than we ought; but with sound judgment.
We can’t be proud in what we’ve made or done – and honestly, this is where I fail the most. If God’s the one who gave us the very ability to do it – if the heartbeat of His grace flows like molten gold through my fingers and imagination – then how can I take any credit at all?
And, on the other hand, how can I say it’s no good, worthless?
Give it everything you’ve got, and then some. But never forget that it’s His glory you’re working for, and it’s His grace that will be sufficient for you to fulfill His purpose.
Stop telling me you’re worthless,
Cause you’re blowing me away, friend,
You’re blowing me away.