Authored by Tina Kapp
A few years back, I was invited, quite out of the blue, to a church here in South Africa to dance for a concert that was raising funds for missionary projects. This was no ordinary church: Aside from the fact that it seats 3,000 people, their stage and lighting is so good that the last four seasons of South African Idols (the local reality TV talent show) were filmed there.
The groups that signed on to perform for this particular fundraiser were some of the biggest names in South African music, including Elvis Blue, one of the winners of SA Idols, who now has a very successful music career, and Bobby van Jaarsveld, a South African pop star, who is the two-time winner of the “Most Popular Male Artist” award.
Bobby received Jesus a few years ago and has written beautiful songs about the Lord and has the salvation prayer on his website,1 which is introduced with, “The next five minutes might change your life and your destiny.” At the fundraiser, this singer shared his testimony in between his songs and chatted about how he has come to better understand the Lord’s love for us since becoming the father of a baby boy.
As a “thank you” for our participation in the concert we all got T-shirts with the event name and a book written by Cindy West titled Saying Yes. I’m very picky when it comes to books. If I’m not interested in the first few pages, I won’t easily read on. I had never heard of this book, but it came at an opportune time, as the book was about using all forms of art for the Lord’s work.
I had just started pursuing dance again after shelving it for several years, and it took a lot of thinking and praying to know how I could best use my talents in my service for the Lord. I’ve loved performing ever since I can remember. So many of my friends were very talented dancers, artists, writers, and singers when they were young, but very few have turned it into their full-time career.
Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
There are those who may feel like the trials of life have quashed the artist in them—whether by circumstances, school, conflicts, the industry, or lack of opportunity. You may feel this way too, and if you do, it helps to stop and think about what it is that you shelved and that you could dust off and rediscover. Ask yourself, “What is it that makes creating so beautiful and fulfilling to me? And what is it that makes me proud to have taken part of that creation?”
Maybe you don’t think you’re an artist. It’s a rather broad term, actually. I looked up the definition and found the following in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1. One who professes and practices an imaginative or fine art
2. A skilled performer
3. One who is adept at something
“Great art,” says British art expert, Sister Wendy Beckett, “is something that, when experienced lifts you out of yourself, puts you in another dimension, and places you back down transformed.” Now I love my work and am very proud of it, but I wouldn’t say it’s always dimensional and transforming. There is a lot of mundane and technical aspects when it comes to creating something, and some art is just less emotional. Still, I love to step back and realize that something beautifully created can put a smile on someone’s face and make them nod their head and say, “Sweet!”
In her book, Cindy West writes, “Becoming an artist isn’t something that typically appears on the ‘10 Things I Want to Be When I Grow Up’ list. It just doesn’t seem to fit within society’s demands. It never registered in my brain that the creative things I’d so joyously engaged in as a kid could actually equate to God’s design for my future.”
I have to agree with her. Society has stereotyped many illustrators, painters, actors, dancers, writers, and musicians as “struggling,” simply because these are competitive industries and it’s difficult to make a living from them. At the same time, they glorify those who are successful, making you feel stardom and celebrity status is the ultimate goal in life.
What I’ve found is that my decision to use my talents to help God’s work—in small or great ways—has opened doors for me that would never have opened had I gone the standard route of schools, auditions, and companies. That’s not to say that using any of those routes won’t open doors for us, but we don’t have to be limited by them.
The author also discussed how she learned to use the power of art to glorify God and touch people’s hearts. I love the way she puts it: “I simply wanted to use my creativity in a way that would move beyond the defenses of the human heart and change it forever.”
I’ve read countless testimonies of lives changed from hearing a moving song or reading a powerful article. The theater play Godspell, based on Jesus’ parables and the book of Matthew, has played tens of thousands of times on Broadway and around the world since its creation in 1972. The author of that play, John-Michael Tebelak, wrote it at the age of 22 as his master’s thesis project. He found so much joy in the gospels, but saw the hypocrisy in some churches, and he wanted to show the beauty and simplicity of Jesus’ message. I bet he had no idea how far his work would go. In our production of the play in Uganda, the husband of one of the actresses was a long-standing atheist. This man came to know the Lord as a result of watching that play; he was actually moved to tears at the crucifixion scene.
If you are ever in the mood to sit down—or in some cases stand up—and create something, don’t shrug it off or belittle your urge. Okay, maybe if you sound like Kermit the frog when you sing, or if you dance like a one-legged rabbit, you should probably focus on something else. But more often than not, talented people never use their talents because of fear of failure or because they don’t accept the compliments that others give them; they instead brush off their God-given talents due to a negative image of themselves or their failure to recognize their talents.
Most famous artists showed natural talent at a young age, but it would have amounted to nothing if they never pursued it. If they never practiced, worked hard, and then used it in some way, we would never have heard of painters like Rembrandt or dancers like Martha Graham, who is known as the mother of modern dance.
Knowing that God is the ultimate creator and artist (I’ve even heard Him referred to as “the Magic Painter”), we can certainly look to Him to help us develop the creativity that He gave us. The most incredible music you’ve ever heard, the most amazing performance on SYTYCD,2 the voice of your favorite singer, the most stunning painting or artwork you’ve ever seen, would not be possible without God. Genesis 1 says that He made us in His own image.3 It’s no wonder that so many of us have that creative bug.
True, not all performers use their talents for God’s glory, and society’s pressures and cynicisms are difficult to buck, but I believe God does expect us to use these creative talents for His glory. Luke 12:48 tells us, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”4 The more talents God has given you, the more responsible you are to use them for His glory and develop them into even more.
Many of us have read the story in the Bible of the king who gave his servants talents in different amounts. When he came back, he rewarded the servants who invested their talents and made a profit. He also punished the servant who went and buried his talent, which in essence meant he wasted the investment.5
A “talent” in those days was a significant sum of money, equal to somewhere between 10 and 25 years’ worth of earnings. I find it interesting that we now use that same word—talent—to define our skills. The whole story becomes more interesting if you apply the same principles to investing in the skills or “talents” that God gave you.
Looking for opportunities to glorify the Lord using your artistic nature can turn into an amazing testimony. It can point people to the Lord, and make God more present in both your life and the lives of those who witness your talent. It also shows others that you acknowledge where your talent and gift came from. Acknowledging and glorifying God can be as simple as giving God the credit when someone pays you a compliment for your work; or it can be more intricate, such as finding a way to use your art to get the message Jesus wants you to give. But in whichever way you do it, you’ll find great satisfaction in allowing God to use you and show you just how amazing and perfect He is.
Michelangelo said it best: “A true work of art is but a shadow of the Divine perfection.”
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2013 by The Family International