One of the first writers I encountered along the way who encouraged me to pursue this gift of creativity was a man named Hans Rookmaaker. I never met Hans. In fact he died just a few months after I began to follow the ways of Jesus. But his writings and his life made a profound impact on my own.
I had always loved art and drawing and creativity. My mother reminds me that as a youngster I didn’t like coloring books with pictures already in them. Rather I wanted “blank coloring books” so that I could make my own pictures. And just a bit later in life I also didn’t appreciate the school art classes with all the various projects we were required to work on. All I wanted was a pencil and some paper and a good dose of quite, undisturbed time to draw. Apparently that was asking too much for more than a few of my art teachers!
After becoming a follower of Jesus things began to be a little more complicated. I was consistently encouraged to use my drawing ability to help “win” people over. And that the drawings were only useful as a way to communicate or preach about why following Jesus was better than all the other options for how to approach life. This is where the writings of Hans Rookmaaker came into play.
I discovered a small booklet in the basement bookstore of the bible college I was attending. The title “Art Needs No Justification,” was completely intriguing to me and I bought it immediately. Hans helped me to see that even just the possibility of creating art, creating something beautiful and well-designed, was in itself an act of worship to our creator. And then to be able to share that creativity with others, to help add beauty to their lives, was another powerful way to love our neighbors as ourselves. Hans writes:
“To be a Christian artist means that ones particular calling is to use ones talents to the glory of God, as an act of love toward God and as a loving service to our fellows. It means to be on the way, preparing ourselves as well as we can, learning the trade techniques and principles, learning from the work of others and from their mistakes, finding our direction, experimenting, achieving what we set out to do or failing. To work in such a way, with all our heart and mind and spirit, with all our potential talents, in openness and freedom, praying for wisdom and guidance, thinking before we work, is to accept our responsibility.” (Rookmaaker, Art Needs No Justification; you can download a copy here)
It’s difficult to express the freedom I felt as I first read his words. But this freedom has impacted me deeply ever since. It has colored the way I approach art or design. It has colored the way I approach being a pastor of a pretty cool church. It has influenced the way I worship God and follow his son. It has colored pretty much everything I do or say or the way I think about life. In this simple way of looking at the world I have found a freedom to pursue and express the creativity God has invited us to be a part of.
I would encourage you to read this little booklet, if you haven’t, and tell me what you find.