Learning to Be an Artist for Jesus

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Ever since I was four-years-old, I wanted to be an artist and storyteller. The artist dream was mostly extinguished by the time I became an adult, when I became an atheist and nihilist and lost joy in nearly everything I once loved. It wasn’t until Jesus saved me about four years ago that the love of art was reawakened in me, and I believe God gave me back that desire to pull me out of my depression and the frustration I was experiencing because I wanted to tell the world about Him and didn’t know how. Shortly after I was saved, I felt highly motivated to paint a picture of Eve. I had a canvas and some paints tucked away, and I finished the painting of Eve in less than twenty-four hours. As soon as it was finished, I wanted to paint more. So, I created more paintings of women in the Bible as I read through scriptures, and found that painting calmed my impatient mind and helped me slow down and digest God’s Word. 

Painting led me down a path where God slowly showed me direction, one step at a time, with no clue as to what the future would bring. I was led to join an art guild, develop a friendship with a non-believing artist (who I pray for daily), show my work in galleries and juried art shows where I met lots of believing and non-believing artists and admirers. I garnered praise, sold some prints, and even had my work make the cover of a couple of magazines. I say all this not to brag, but to point out that none of this was according to my plan for my life. It was more like I felt Jesus tugging at me, putting me in certain places or putting certain people in my life, helping me down a road I would have never taken on my own.

The praise I sometimes receive for my work makes me feel like an impostor. I know better than anyone (except for, of course, Jesus) that the only work I am actually doing is painting (which is the desire He gave me) and saying “yes” to the opportunities He puts in place for me. I’m never reminded more of my unworthiness than during the actual creation process. Whenever I start a painting, my little studio quickly become a timeless vacuum that sucks me in and forces me to confront my sins head on: selfish ambition, frustration, envy, impatience, ingratitude, self-absorption – they all weigh down on me and my hands, and I can’t make anything beautiful come out. I literally paint in circles, going over the same lines, over and over, and expecting something wonderful to happen or for something stunning to emerge. It’s not until I call out to Jesus in my frustration and bitterness and ask Him to help me – to make me not so me – that I begin to let go, feel those sins lift off me like smoke, and I can find the joy and worship in creating, and the excitement in working for Him and His kingdom. When I experience this joy, I feel the tiniest pang of sadness that I have such a short amount of time on this Earth because I want to do this forever.

As I work on a painting, I can actually witness Him guiding me – placing ideas and helpful techniques in my path, or in my head, that I couldn’t find on my own while painting in circles. And I become so grateful and amazed, and I wish I could explain it to whoever compliments my work, and say something more profound than “I couldn’t have done it without Jesus, or “to God be the glory,” because they never truly get it. I have a hard time telling people in a short exchange the miracle that occurs when I paint; how, every time, it starts with me and my sin, and ends with grace, forgiveness, and the weightlessness that comes from leaning on Jesus. In the process, I’m reminded of the goodness of the Gospel every minute. 

I’m grateful this post has given me the opportunity to say what I sometimes have a hard time saying:

  1. Without Him, I’d be dead in my sin, and I wouldn’t be painting.
  2. Without Him, I would never finish a painting. (Side note: as insignificant and strange as it sounds, Jesus actively makes me better at painting. I could show a slideshow of the stages of each of my paintings, and point to the exact moment where I got stuck and Jesus stepped in. It’s like night and day.)
  3. Without Him, I’d have nothing but doubts, a heavy dose of meaninglessness, and no direction. I only paint because of Him. Because I truly believe that this is something He wants me to do.

I love being an artist for Jesus, though this is all fairly new and I’m still a bit clueless. I often feel conflicted about how to serve others with art without becoming lost in the world of envious comparison and serving my own ego or mammon, but I’m not convinced this is something I need to have all figured out. Right now, I’m focusing on directing it all towards Him, and then, with time, I know He will show me how to use my art for others in a way that doesn’t put me and my “talents” smack dab in the middle of everything, like a sad little shrine to myself. I pray that opportunities keep arising, that seeds are planted, interest in the Bible is sparked in nonbelievers, and that His will is done, in whatever way that includes the art He puts in my heart. 

– Veronica McDonald

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flash I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20 KJV

Veronica is a Christian artist and writer and the creator of Heart of Flesh Literary Journal. You can find her on Twitter.

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