Several years ago I went through the dark night of the soul, and God used three long-dead writers to pull me out.
They were artists, all three. All three walked with God, sought His face, basked in His glory, and painted what they saw in words. They were ordinary Christians who sought God in extraordinary ways and used art to express what they found — a missionary poet, a preacher who wrote novels, and an ex-Pharisee whose writings help form the basis of our faith. Struggling with spiritual depression and darkness, I could hardly lift my head. But a few books found their way to me, and they began to open the windows.
It began with Amy Carmichael’s gentle question, reminding me that Jesus knew pain and that, in fact, we should know it too:
Hast thou no scar? …
No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the master shall the servant be
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: can he have followed far
Who has nor wound nor scar?
A little collection of Amy’s poetry brought the light of Jesus’ presence and peace back to me, along with the sharp reminder that I loved Him. In George MacDonald’s novels I saw the face of Christ. His characters reminded me that God’s heart toward me is love, and that He has not ceased to be in control. And finally Paul, Paul with his inspired words, Paul with his eloquent simplicity: Paul gave me grace.
Into my dark room the light came slowly, growing ever stronger by the day. It came as George MacDonald describes it:
We, hardly trusting hopeful eyes,
Discern and doubt the opening skies …
Telling, through the vapours dun
Of the coming, coming sun!
‘Tis Truth awaking in the soul!
His Righteousness to make us whole!
And what shall we, this Truth receiving,
Though with but a faint believing,
Call it but eternal Light?
‘Tis the morning, ’twas the night!
God has used many people in my life, but few have made so deep an impact as writers. And where they leave off, other artists have filled the gap. While preachers and teachers have challenged my mind, mentors and friends have built my maturity, and good old hard work has allowed me to serve, God has used writing, music, story, dance, and other art forms to touch some of the deepest places in my heart. The impact has never truly faded away.
Perhaps that is why I care about seeing Christian artists develop their skills, hone their voices, and create. I know, firsthand, how powerfully art can communicate. When we create something, we build a bridge to the soul of another. And when we meet in the middle, in the raw honesty and strength of creativity, the connection may have transforming power.
Now I am also a writer. I play with words, I edit them, I teach them. I write articles and I try to write stories. I teach young people to express ideas clearly, with creativity and skill, and in me a vision is growing for them and for all other creative Christians. The vision grows stronger as our culture plunges deeper and deeper into dark, sinful expressions of creativity, as it glorifies horror, sexual immorality, antiheroes, and the occult. I think of all those who seek distraction and solace in “art” such as that, and I shudder to think of the windows that are opening in their lives.
In these dark days, we desperately need Christian artists who will love God with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and who will pour that love into unique creative expressions of truth that have the power to bridge into the souls of others.
This is my charge to them, to you, to myself more than anyone.
Go and meet with God. Seek Him in your relationships, your circumstances, the creation around you. Immerse yourself in scripture. Pray with your whole heart. Let His Spirit fill you with light. And then do what God has asked you to do — be a candle, a burning light, a city on a hill blazing with truth and shelter for those who are lost in the darkness. Use your art to do it.
It is such a dark, dark world. Is there light in you? Then hear my call to you, and to all in whom truth is burning.
Oh Christian, please paint the light!
Please show us beauty. Show us people, in all of their splendor and sin. Write redemption, if you will; write true, enduring love; write friendship, justice and hope in the midst of oppression. Paint for us the light. Show us what it means to be human, but more, what it means that He is God.
Write, Christian, if you can — write truly. With all your heart, avoid being trite. Please don’t write pat answers or platitudes. Please seek out the truth. When your God says “Seek my face,” let your heart answer, “Thy face, O Lord, will I seek.” See Him in Jesus, and then write for us. Write what you see.
Please write simple, clear words. Write with passion, conviction and biblical authority. Please write with compassion, for what you write will make its way into the hearts of others. Your words will shape them. Write because He is Lord, because He was crucified and because He is risen again.
Oh, Christian, paint the light! Shape for me visions of families that do not break up, where fathers love their wives and sons and willingly die for truth. In story and song, show me purity, chastity and virtue. In drama and dance, tell me stories of children who grow up to leave selfishness behind and become what God would have them be. In poetry and prose, write the earth in its glory, in its mists, its ice, its rainforests and mountains — and let me see in it not the cruel hand of arbitrary nature but the wise hand of a Creator who is God.
Tell me true stories, about your ancestors, about the past, about the people you know today. Tell me of the work of God. And tell me stories that if they are not true, deserve to be.
It is dark, my friend. Paint the light.
Oh Christian, pierce the darkness! Write with imagination and fervor; write of Middle-Earth and Narnia; write of days you have never seen and places you can only imagine. Do not fear art, do not be afraid of creativity; for it is God who spoke the world into being, God who conceived of and created all we see; and to create any small thing is to follow in His likeness and celebrate His gifts.
Please, my friends, show me truth. Show me what life is, but most importantly, show me the Father.
Dear friends, dear sojourners here, let your minds be renewed and transformed by Christ. Let Him sharpen your thinking and make your understanding clear. Seek out truth and pursue it; love wisdom and knowledge because they are also gifts from Him; seek to grow in faith. And let your faith, your understanding, spill over in the words you pen, the pictures you paint, your dances and dramas and songs.
Paint the light. The world is dark, my friends, and we are needed.
In our creative work, may Christ Himself come walking. As Amy Carmichael wrote,
Walking the dawn-wind, Jesus, Heavenly Lover,
In the still beauty of the waking morn,
Unveil Thyself to me, and with the vision
Shall come the strength for trials yet unborn.
Lift your faces, friends and brethren; soak up the vision, and show me what you see.
Copyright 2008 Rachel Starr Thomson. All rights reserved.