Consider the lilies of the field. Our God made beautiful stuff, even though he also built it to expire. This is a strange struggle for us on earth: to admire but not to fret, to see beyond the moment (though mesmerizing) to the eternal. For those of us in the creative arts, who endeavor on the building end of things, whose achievements are marked by elusive goals in a subjective world, the creative nature of our God is necessary meditation; and In the Living Room is a place to do just that.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure whether signing up for this 7-week commitment was a good idea. I don’t always appreciate getting dumped into the “artist pool” because we’re not all the same. I wanted to resist the conflation of “us” (the poor but noble artist) versus “them” (people who make money for a living).
But the opposite happened. God surprised me (again) by the variety of people and talents that exist. You know when you sit next to that graphic designer in church and see them take notes? They realize the sermon’s words and meaning visually and it’s so cool. Multiply this by twenty-ish (the number of participants attending In the Living Room) and you’ll see and hear the process of people working out their thoughts and ideas in myriad ways—film, visual art, fashion, craft, acting, writing, music. It can be quite inspiring.
Still, efforts outside of the Arts call upon imagination and creativity. The business of predicting the life of a stock, the research and formation of technology frameworks for a need that does not yet exist, the naming of a child whose personality and future is unknown. These are not to be diminished.
Indeed, this is one way God reminds me: the overlap is not that some are in the Arts, the overlap is that we are all made in the image of a Creator. He is multifaceted, worthy of wonder, the generator of all things. In the beginning, God created...
Therefore, when we go back to our studio, practice room, coffee shop—or officeand try to do good work, we do not have to put some form of ourselves on a pedestal. “Be knocked off center,” as we talked about In the Living Room. This idea is applicable to any vocation.
So, why do we have In the Living Room? Why should artists get their own joint in the body of the church? I asked myself these questions, too. Was this some sort of team-building, Kumbayah camp exercise?
For some, it was a time to heal and be built up. To contemplate the God-endued honor in what some people in their past labeled “frivolous”. To be with others whose day job is one thing while their mind- and heart-life is occupied elsewhere. To be challenged by the fact that God can be in the process of our work, when the work itself doesn’t have a hard outline.
We discussed the notion of liminality, the “here, but not yet” place that Christians can live in. (e.g. Our marriages are a “here, but not yet” version of our status as Bride of Christ.) For people in the creative arts, we walk into this shifting place in our work lives, too, and it can be unnerving. There is no such thing as “finished” in art. But we’re all working toward some imagined plateau before the next climb. The target is wavering and the fruit of our labor is not always in measure with the amount we have sown.
For me, this was the benefit of In the Living Room: to communicate and have communicated to me the blessedness of our “at work” state. Truths that, though known, require continued kneading into our thought lives, especially when our work lives can be incredibly frustrating and lonely. We, like Niggle’s tree, are in-process. So, when you’re in a particularly quiet season, like I am, you can confess, “I don’t know” and it is less uncomfortable. God made the lilies of the field splendid but temporary, and it is good.
Suna Chung is a Gotham Alum who participated in the In The Living Room Artist Intensive.