The Art of Your Work
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Several years ago I saw Wicked on Broadway. I knew I would like it as I’ve always enjoyed all things Oz. But sitting in the dark theatre, the lights from the stage falling softly on my lap, my experience went beyond mere enjoyment. One word floated up from my subconscious: worship.
It seemed to fit better in church with crosses and communion than on a New York stage with flying monkeys and a green-faced witch, but that word continued to weave its way through the evening. Whether they knew it or not, these actors brought glory to God in a way I couldn’t fully explain. Beauty surrounded every creative moment unfolding in front of us, and worship swelled up within me in response.
Several years before that New York night, I had a similar experience sitting in a much smaller audience in the youth room of our church during my senior year of high school. We had a young musician visiting that night named Sarah Masen. She was only a few years older than me, but her dark eyes seemed to hold more creative secrets than she ought to have at so young an age.
As she began to strum her guitar and sing, I was thrilled when I realized she intended to share those secrets with us. She didn’t just sing notes, she sang story. And yes, she was talented, but she was also generous. Her willingness to share herself with the room touched something alive deep within me, something that would have remain untouched that night if she had kept her art to herself.
Today a watercolor hangs in our kitchen, a rainbow turtle painted by small hands and offered as a gift. My son didn’t paint to impress, to win, or to compete. He painted as an act of love for me. His expression warms my heart, not because the painting is good but because the boy is mine.
His smallness is not a disadvantage, but is what makes his work meaningful and beautiful in the first place.
We would most likely all agree that the work offered by the actor, the singer, and the kindergarten painter is beautiful work, even art.
But what about the work of the teacher, the father, or the real estate agent? What about the mail carrier, the babysitter, the lawyer, or the cashier? What about the work you do everyday?
Is the work of the artist beautiful and the work of the rest of us just work?
Is art and beauty only reserved for the highly trained, the creatively inclined, the child painter, the hipster, the wealthy, and the refined?
It depends on who you ask.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The verse is so familiar I nearly miss the best part. Five words into scripture and we learn our first lesson about God: creativity comes first. It was not an afterthought or an activity reserved for a weekend hobby.
The first movement of the Trinity is the creative work of art.
When he spoke, the world came out, but it was breath that made us; intimate, personal breath. And then, it gets even better.
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
God spoke the world and breathed humanity and when he did, he declared that every human was made in His artistic image.
Perhaps art isn’t only for the dancer, the actor, the singer, or the painter after all.
The beauty you have to offer may not be a song or a flower or a dance. And you may not see the beauty in a spreadsheet or the carpool line or the proposal you’ve been working on.
But the true art, the most beautiful kind, is you – worshipful, generous, small you. Just like Sarah Masen’s art touched something deep within me, your work has the capacity to touch something deep within someone else. Not because you offer it perfectly or elegantly, but because you offer it as you.
Perhaps the most beautiful work you can do today is to begin to accept your creative inheritance from God and learn to become yourself in the presence of others, moving into the world as the person you fully are no matter where you are, who you’re with, or what’s gone wrong.
It’s true you may not be an artist by profession. But you are an artist by design.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Is it possible for worship to weave itself into the fabric of your day no matter what you’re doing? What is one way you might choose generosity over scarcity in your job today? Rather than fighting your smallness, would you be willing to celebrate it? How might this change your workday?
PRAYER: Father, remind us of the way you move into the world as Creator and the way you breathe your life into us. Jesus, remind us of your sacrifice, how you became nothing so we could be free; how you brought life straight out of death; how you make beauty out of dust. Spirit, remind us of your presence within us so that we are able to move into the world bearing your image rather than trying to maintain our own. May we see ourselves through your eyes so that all of our work may be an act of worship unto you. Amen.
Creating Beauty at Work
This article is part of The High Calling series, Creating Beauty at Work. While brightly painted walls or sleek, modern furniture might lighten our mood and inspire creativity, investing in the people we work with, helping them to bring the best of who they are and caring about them even when they can’t, is at the heart of a beautiful workplace. Are you or someone you know feeling a little lackluster about your work environment? Before you buy a new framed print for the wall, try complimenting your cubicle mate or saying thank you to the janitor. Or start a conversation with a coworker by emailing or sharing one of the articles in our series.