Nice Hobby

When you choose art as your profession, a wide range of responses will come plummeting forth from Those On High who Know What They're Talking About. More particularly, your friends, parents, relatives, and strangers at dinner parties. "Oh, well that's really nice," or, "Hmm...interesting choice," if they don't want to say what they really think.

"Do you have a backup plan?" if they're feeling skeptical.

"That's a nice hobby. How are you going to make money?" if they're feeling honest.

More than the disbelief that you can make money with an artistic career, I feel there's a deeper sense that art doesn't have a real, practical, or useful purpose. Art is a "nice hobby," an add-on, extraneous to life, but you're not providing anything real or valuable to the world by making art.

Even more tragic than the wider world holding this belief, many artists (by their own will or by a begrudging acceptance of well-repeated dogma) have decided to listen. Even when every part of that artist's brain and soul feels fulfilled in the process of creation and sharing that with others. Even when God seems to be inviting them to live this beautiful and courageous dream of creating. Artists, too, succumb to the idea that what they do isn't important, and they should minor in business or law or something like that...just in case.

This is a dangerous thought path to take, especially as an artist who follows Jesus, because the focus is on living a safe life rather than living a full life. This idea purports that while having a passion is great and all, that's meant for the sidelines of your life. It's not realistic to center your life around something you love to do. This awakens a personal fear of many artists (myself included) of that day when "they" will find out that you've been having fun doing work you enjoy and it's time to fall back into the land of Dreadful Reality and get a "real job."

I can identify a lot of reasons why this mindset is so prevalent. A fear of failure, personal disappointment or discouragement, what media says, what the educational system says. But I want to address something that's more troubling to me: the idea that the things you love doing that give you life are things you should give up in order to follow Jesus. I have heard time and time again, "Well, I would love to do this, but I don't know if that's God's will for me."

While I agree there's a lot you should be willing to give up to follow Jesus and align yourself with God's will, including for some people what job you want to have, I don't think that means your passions are bad. In fact, I would argue that they are gifts that God has given us to use.

When God gives you a passion, he also gives you the responsibility to put in the work for that passion. You owe it to you, others, and God. I guarantee you that God's will for your life is not to stress yourself out about what his will is and never make decisions, and therefore never live. Jesus made the statement that he came here to give life and life abundantly (Jn. 10:10). Why would abundant life mean excluding the passions that God created you with?

Finally, the response that comes after this: is art worth putting so much time into? Is it as important of a work as, say, providing for peoples' physical needs?

Maybe I'm a bit biased, but I think that art is a vitally important part of the human existence. Art, whether through song or story, painting or photograph, explores and communicates thoughts, emotions, and spirituality in a way that humans deeply desire. That desire, I believe, was given to us by God. Artists have a deeply important part in God's plan and a responsibility to follow the passions God gave them.