I sat on an editors' panel on behalf of Today's Christian Woman and Christianity Today at the Write to Publish Conference hosted at Wheaton College today, and the most poignant thing I heard was about the creativity Christians so often fail to express authentically. "So many Christians are afraid of offending God," artist, poet, and teacher Lora Zill said. "I operate in the secular sphere most of the time, and I feel like there's a big disconnect between the two - I wish I could build a bridge and encourage Christians to be more bold."
I couldn't agree more. Creative Christians are what make my heart--and faith--come alive. I believe writers, musicians, and artists are people who have got life right. Sure, we need doctor, lawyers, and accountants to keep the world in order, but where would we be without Ernest Hemingway, Andy Warhol, and Johnny Cash? God created all of them with unique and specific purposes (in my opinion, to express themselves creatively) - and I believe Christians are called to see the beauty in all of it (even in people who may not identify overtly as Christians).
Another thing that struck me today was the "real-ness" of the conversations I had with writers, authors, and editors during my appointments today:
"I was sexually abused as a child."
"My son got a concussion. Now he's angry all the time and 'doesn't want to be on God's team anymore.'"
"I suffered from major depression during my pregnancy, and now my son is autistic."
"I'm single, and I'm an older lady. The hormones may go away, but the loneliness isn't as easy to get rid of."
"My son lost his wife last month. She was only 35."
These conversations I had with people today reminded me: Just because we're Christian doesn't mean we won't suffer. When we come to Jesus, things aren't all of a sudden perfect. We still have problems. The only difference between us and people who don't trust Jesus is how we live out and trust each other in community as the church. That's our job as Christians - to love each other selflessly, and trust each other with our burdens, pain, and broken hearts. In the words of Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen:
"When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."
We'll never be able to love anyone perfectly, but our job as Christians is to let each other know they're not alone in their struggles--and to remind each other that, in time, Jesus will dry all of our tears and heal us completely. In the meantime, we're called to love him and others with all of our hearts, minds, and souls, and to express our God-given gifts with passion and fervor.
So go pursue your dreams and do something that matters. While you're at it, make sure you hug someone. Actually, hug eight people. Eight hugs a day have been scientifically proven to extend your lifespan significantly. :)