Over the years, like you, I have put hundreds, if not thousands of hours into creative projects. In the process of making each one, I have sometimes struggled with my identity getting tangled up with a performance, a song, a recording project, a book, or an event I’ve created. It’s a subtle weaving of “who I am” with “what it is,” and because we get so invested in our personal creative work, it’s easy to do. And although investment in our work is good, we also need to maintain a healthy distance.
I’m writing a few books and a dissertation right now; I can feel the pull. Word-and-Thought Paint is all over my hands, and I can’t see my skin anymore for the colors.
Why We Need a Healthy Distance
1. WHEN MY WORK IS VALUED, I AM VALUED
Imagine if our Creator put His identity in the creation. Oh, yes, to make it is to love it—and to step in and restore it if it goes wrong. But to become one with it? When it breaks, we break. When it is flawed, we are flawed. When it is critiqued, we are critiqued. When it is undesirable, we are undesirable. Conversely, when it is good, we are good. When it is loved, we are loved. When it is valued, we are valued.
It almost, almost seems right, doesn’t it? That close of a tie with our work, our investment, our very soul-on-paper-or-canvas? This is why insanity and artistry have often been close cousins for more than a few personalities throughout history.
In a sense, it’s artistic differentiation we need to learn along the way; to deeply know the difference between us and a precious thing that the Spirit inspired and that flowed from our soul—usually after a thick investment of internal and external resources, labor, consideration, and expectation preceding and following its release.
2. MOMMY, WHERE DO IDOLS COME FROM?
While we would rarely consider the holy work we call our creative projects an idol, especially when our motives are pure and our hearts are set on giving glory to our Maker, we can end up trusting in our offerings and putting our hope in the validation we receive (in the form of listeners, readers, viewers, likes, shares, income, peer affirmation) when we put those productions out into the wild.
“Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? …For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation….” (Hab. 2:18, selections).
A work of art, small or large, is not an idol until it gains our trust; then it reinvents itself from being a product of our creation to becoming a quiet master of our souls. Eventually, the next creative product does the same, unless we address our attachments at the seed season of the work—choosing to see that product primarily as an offering rather than as an expression of self.
3. PLACING OUR TRUST BEYOND THE PIECE
Trusting in our own creation, even in our own thoughts, words, poetry, work, in my experience, leads to both loss and limitation over time; I’ve seen the hungry eyes of those who put their identity in their perceived popularity and the pursuit of others, only to find themselves invited to sing less, write less, or speak less as the years progressed.
We trust God under the piece, beyond the piece, through the piece—a trust that is in an unchanging identity and a love that affirms us for who we are before anyone ever hears, sees, reads, touches, embraces—anything we’ve made.
We are given these gifts to bless and praise and help, but not to put our trust in.
We can and should keep a healthy distance, a holy distance from even our ver best work—that it may go well with us.
This article about the need to keep a healthy distance from our work originally appeared here, and is used by permission.