Saturday, March 3, 2012
Surviving a career in the arts
This Lenten reflection on Mark 8:31-38 was written by Brian Hampton, Marble Collegiate Church’s director of arts ministry and children, youth, and families ministry.
"He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'" (Mark 8:34).
Many creative people in the arts come to church for a very specific reason—to strengthen their faith. It keeps them going. Careers in the arts are some of the most difficult professions out there, and faith in God and in God's will for them is essential to artists' work.
To be in the arts means that you have to have a "thick skin"; at least, according to the old adage. "I hope you have a thick skin," was what people told me when I decided to move to New York City from Virginia to become an actor and a playwright.
They were right. But it's not really about the box of rejection letters, the countless auditions, or the unanswered calls. It's about putting your point of view and faith out there to be judged and seen by others. It's tough. Just like telling others about your faith in God, it's exposing, personal, and there will always be critics.
Peter is the critic in this story. He rebukes Jesus, but Jesus says to him, "You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things" (verse 33).
That's what you have to listen to and hold on to when you are in the arts. When you put words to page, acting to dialogue, paint to canvas, movement to music, or notes to a melody, you have to keep in mind the divine message, the ministry it gives to you, and what you, in turn, give to your audience. You can't think of those who will reject you—you think of those whose spirits you'll be healing and what you'll be inspiring in people as a result.
As Jesus says to the crowd, deny yourself and take up your cross and follow him. It won't be an easy road, but if you hold on to God, God will pull you through to see your creative work come alive and touch people's lives.
So go and create, and discover, and minister in your own creative way! As Jesus says in this passage, "Get behind me, Satan!" That's what you need to say when that voice inside critiques you and holds you back. Push it behind you, because you and your talent belong out there in the front.
God, as we walk through the season of Lent, remind us that even though the road is not always an easy one, with you walking beside us, our faith reminds us that you are the greatest guide, on the greatest path, to the greatest glory. Amen.