Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Walking on water

I have been wrestling with my artisitic call over the last month walking away from the easel and living in a strange yet familiar place.

Over my quiet time last week an image of Peter standing out on the water flashed across my mind as if the Lord said to me,
"You are like Peter. You begin to look all around you hoping in your footing instead of relying on me, become overwhelmed by fear and run towards the boat. This is your pattern."
That boat is the symbol of apathy for me and the water is God's call on my life. This call can create in me all manner of fear because it is unreliable and unstalbe. It is an ocean, though calm and clear when I am in the place of faith, that can quickly turn into a tumultuous sea of doubt that uncovers my deep seated desire for control. It also reveals the cracks in my faith.

I have been in the boat for several weeks. Although it is a safe place, it lies to me whispering to that somehow this is better just like Mrs Victor in "Empire of the Sun." Captured British residents journey from one internment camp to another across China and come to a dumping field covered in opulent furniture. In her weakened state Mrs Victor is convinced that staying there among things remnicent of her life before the Japanese invasion is better than moving on to a place where there is food and shelter. The fear of what could happen or what has happened is too great though it means preserving her life. She dies there on her beautiful velvet chair. I am on the chair but unlike Mrs Victor I KNOW the chair means death (no pun intended.)

I have now turned to face Jesus again. I can see Him out there in it where He lives. IN IT. Now I must contend with His words. He does not say, "Tracey, would you like to step on on the water?" or "Hey, why don't you think about coming out of the boat?" No, no, He says, "Come." My choice now is to decide whether or not to obey. God help me.


Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that God gives us such amazing talents but yet we feel as if they are never good enough...but when has God ever done things half way or "just Average". Sometimes we are so critical of ourselves...picking apart every little imperfection or what we feel is an imperfection. We need to remember to do all things for the Glory of God and not ourselves or others because that's who we owe the "glory" for our special talents anyways.

wren said...

"That boat is the symbol of apathy for me and the water is God's call on my life. This call can create in me all manner of fear because it is unreliable and unstable."

No wonder Jesus teaches us using word pictures: they really do clarify issues. If you really do see the boat as the symbol of apathy and the water as God's call on your life, then your imagery has revealed the source of your anxiety. Jesus did not ask Peter to come to the water. Jesus asked Peter to come to HIM. The water was (and still is) merely the existing walk-way. When Peter focused on the walk-way, he sank. When you focus on your art, you also will sink. The water was never meant to be Peter's destination; it was only a physical means to get him to Christ. Your art is not your destination either. It is a gift, yes, and it may be a tool for ministry and service, yes, but Christ is your calling.

When we focus correctly on our calling, then storms at sea (fluctuations in the success or fruitfulness of our work/gifts/ministry) no longer cause panic and distress. The Spirit shut doors on some places of ministry for Paul, but because Paul's focus was on Christ, he did not take these situations personally. He simply dusted his sandals and walked to the next place of ministry, trusting that God shut the door for HIS good reasons.

The importance of getting the imagery right cannot be overstressed. Throughout Scripture, throughout history, and even in our own lives we see God remove from His servants important tools. Jesus sent the disciples out with the commandment to take NOTHING -- not even a change of clothes; yet they were able to serve him with empty hands and empty pockets. John Milton, the English poet, lost his sight and wondered openly how he could serve God without the ability to write. (He LATER composed Paradise Lost!) One of the sweetest influences in my life for several years was a friend so intensely crippled by rheumatoid arthritis that the primary fact of every second of the day was (and still is) pain. She could do little physically and was neither a writer nor a teacher. Yet her quiet trust in Christ made her walk with Him a powerful comfort and guide to me during a difficult period in life.

Art may be the water, but Christ is your calling. Use the art, just as Peter used the water, as the foot-path God has supplied; but keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. God may call you to use other means of glorifying Him in the course of your life. If you have placed all your hope and trust and focus on art, you will surely flounder. But when we place all our focus on Him, we can bear the addition of or subtraction of the tools He supplies in the course of life. I have already seen some of the gifts I have dearly cherished be quietly pushed aside, because God has called me to serve Him using other means in this season of life. I do not grieve the setting aside of these dearly-loved talents as much as I thought I would, because He has replaced my love for them with a greater love for Him.

Get out of the boat, but walk to Christ.