Artists of the Cross

For a month, the world has been trembling with color, the sky has been swirling with chiaroscuro, and I have been thinking about art. I've been singing with My Epic:

I can't sing that song the same way anymore
'cause I start laughing at the parts where I could only weep before
And it sounds sweeter now because the notes can't ring
until they echo through each wasted year that You restored to me

I've been thinking of how You wept for Lazarus
Tears on Your cheeks, resurrection on Your lips
Sometimes mercy can feel like abandonment
But You know all about it

I used to think I had to write these songs just so
For heavens sake and for my own I put myself through hell
But I quit striving for perfection surrendered up to it instead
And now the songs keep pouring out and I cannot contain myself

I've been thinking of how You wept for Lazarus.
Tears on Your cheeks, resurrection on Your lips
(Broken will)
Sometimes mercy feels just like abandonment
(Find your rest / Broken voice)
You let my heart die, but left Yours beating in my chest
(You sing best)

At 30,000 feet above, the earth was small enough to think of everyone I love
And then imagine them a thousand mirrors all reflect it back at once
and any light would multiply and then remind me
that Your love is more than the sum

It seems like we create the most beautiful art, or at least the truest art, when we are caught up in something outside of the art itself. Writers seem to glorify narcissism sometimes. It seems like we give a lot of energy to contemplating our art, what it is, how to improve it. This isn't a bad thing, but I often find in myself a focus on creating instead of on my motivation for creating. I think this perfectionism is the result of what Luther called a theology of glory. I am trying to control my own success (defined by my own standards instead of God's) instead of trying to show Christ. How does one show Christ, in art or in anything? It seems like everything we touch we ruin. On this side of heaven then, how do we reflect Him?

For a Christian, a theology of glory is disturbing and the complete opposite of what He wants for us. We show Christ best when we decrease and He increases. This means our most beautiful and true art will be the art created at the mercy seat of God, covered in the blood of Christ. This means we as Christians and artists must admit our deep need and sinfulness, but this doesn't mean we glorify sin or wear our brokenness as a badge of honor. Our Beloved died for this. It does mean that we lose ourselves in Christ. For unbelievers, art seems centered on self-discovery and self-expression. For believers, though, art is displaying the beauty of another. The notes that ring the sweetest are the ones that echo through our years of sin and His grace in its face. When we surrender to this, to all we are not and yet to all He is, is when we create best. Broken voice, you sing best, and in the end is Christ. We are mirrors, and He is the light shining in us. At least on this side of heaven, I think we show Him best by being loved by Him. We are artists of the cross.

I can imagine Jesus, shadows and light playing some sort of rubato all over His face, with tears in His eyes and resurrection on His lips. Just as leaves are the most radiant when they are dying, we see His beauty at the cross. We reflect His beauty best when we embrace the cross, not even of suffering for Him, but of agreeing with Him that we are sinful and helpless, but that His cross is enough to save us. And let us not forget that there is sunlight and there is spring.

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