lessons from schaeffer and a blotched birdcage.

by Katherine

Art and the Bible caught my eye, mostly because the art world is a place that I don’t want to hide from anymore, but also because I have realized my need for some Francis Schaeffer on my “have read” list. At a quaint ninety-four pages long, it would hide nicely in my stack of homework where I could grab it at any moment for some sort of stilling, higher thought.

“The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.”

And I remembered the chapel speaker begging us to see that as the truth-holders and beauty-knowers, we must do the hard work of making culture ring with glory. He told of a bridge spanning the world as we know it with the world as God made it to be. We can make that smaller. We can make things better. What is bent and insipid can be made wholly sweet, because truth is stronger than any sham of the good we’ve been following.

“God made the body as well as the soul and redemption is for the whole man.”

The redeemed can’t shrink into a platonic religiosity. If Christ is Lord and that really means anything to us, then every sphere where truth is contained must concern us, too. This includes art. Art is huge. It surrounds us, bearing more weight on our emotions, lifestyle, priorities, and perceptions than we know. And still, we don’t know what makes it good or bad. Even our own attempts at it, no matter how shaky or scattered, are masked by false intentionality in order to help us feel talented. Yes, the smudged birdcage is so symbolic and philosophically deep. The birdcage tilts leftward and the sparrow sings for realization that her song transcends the captivity, just like my art shows me hope beyond today’s banal drudgery. Or maybe I just thought I would be familiar enough with the mediums and textures, so I rushed it.

Let’s be engaged, but be humble about it. Valuable art is that which takes our effort, whether we are making it or receiving it. Remember, it’s the lordship of Christ we are talking about. This means no less than stirring up our efforts to that which is “excellent and praiseworthy.” (So, if you see me, please remind me that, among other things, practicing that Tchaikovsky cello piece will be worth it in the end.)

“There is a very real sense in which the Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art.”

I took an Moleskine to the coffee shop after the birdcage flop incident, and my page was just as frustrating as the canvas. Truth did come through the tension, though, and made me appreciate days when my art reminds me that I am still new and learning and not in heaven yet. Just like the rest of life. I ended it with some sort of sense:

These blotched canvasses are weak, sorry tries, but they are not silent.
They tell of frailty and grace and God.

It’s on my wall now, that beloved birdcage that teaches me that I have much to learn, even in the canvas of the every day. And when I think that the Artist of all artists owns me wholly, such a challenge makes me glad.