I’m doing a series of small articles and talks on: Art, Identity and spirituality. My favorite three topics. How are they related? How they are One or integrated in God, and should be integrated in us!
Our ability to creatively communicate or express is part of being human. And is meant to be attached to our core identity, which must be centered in something other than itself to function well. Preferably something or Someone Higher. This is why healing begins by admitting we need a higher power, or something bigger than ourselves as our ground of being.
Core identity is governed by our spirit, under the influence of whatever you have placed at the center of your life-ie is centered on whatever is our Ultimate. Create expression will flow from that well. So whatever we place at the center of our lives will determine expression. This is one of my core ideas.
What we see, when we look at art:
Art is a symbolic expression of what is at your center (individually and collectively). Art shows us what people have at their core. Art reflects what is lodged, and has been invited into, our core.
Statues of ourselves, statues of dieties, statues of ideals, art about art etc-indicate whatever we have placed at the center-that’s what gets expressed. We express what is at our core, and what is flowing out of it. What we symbolize from and therefore about, is whatever we place at the center of our lives. What is placed at the center of highest value in our lives- that is ultimately what art ends up flowing from. Our expression flows from our core. It can do so directly, or abstractly. It can do so through any medium. But what we have decided to place at our core is the key! Everything flows from that.
So, one way to study cultural history, or what makes a person or people group tick, is to look at their art, to see what its core is like, or is made of. I studied art therapy for many years, which is based on the ability of art to reveal what is going on inside a person. I also studied comparative religious art in school—specifically art flowing from mystical traditions. In religious art, you can see what the core beliefs of a religion are, by reading its art. Visual history allows us to read what is happening beneath the surface of culture. We are known by how and what we express.
I could not know you, if you did not express yourself. This is true for people and places. We know a city, but how it expresses itself through architecture, public spaces, street layout etc. Mapping a city, is really about reading her symbols. What are her core symbols? What are recurring motifs in her landscape? Symbolic patterns. I often ask myself this when walking around a new city, or counseling a person—what is this city or person trying to say about itself?! And, in what areas is her creative expression broken. These are basics to reading a city well, or a person. Even if we just look at a person’s clothing, or how they dress themselves, we are reading symbols to know who they are–social class, etc. We read people through how they express themselves.
It becomes clear, that people and cultures express individually and collectively from whatever is at their center, whatever truly matters most to them-what they’ve placed on “the throne of being”. Or, more simply, their primary concern in life. Their ultimate. How we ground ourselves matters.
Art reflects what’s at the true center of your life. It expresses where you are really coming from. It’s very direct in that way. Just as a piece of art, can directly communicate the essence of a landscape or place, so all art reveals where it comes from.
Some basics: What is at your center? What have you placed as your gravity line or object you compass around or interpret everything else from? What matters most to you? And are you willing to gravitate around it for many years? Is it bearing good fruit in your life?
These basic three areas and their questions and how we answer them as people, determine much about how our lives will go:
Spirituality: what do you ground yourself in? What is your upper story or Ultimate ground of being for yourself? What’s your higher? Your “ground of being”?
Identity: who are you, and how do you find that out? What’s your process for figuring out who you are.
Creativity: how do you express authentically from who you are?
And, how do these three areas integrate into one fluid expression of the poem you are?
We are, as humans all three–we are spiritual, we have identity, and we are creative. So the three have to come into a tandem and mutually blessing relationship. They do so, when we replace ourselves as center of our lives, and replace it with Jesus Christ. The True Center of things. When we re-center in the Right Center, everything changes. We begin to become aligned with what is Real. Reality becomes our home. And Reality is sustained and governed by Christ. We start to come into alignment with what is Real. That is the journey towards our eternal names, or true identity. The journey into the Life of Christ. Our true identity begins, as it did for St Peter with seeing who Jesus is.
Ironically, we receive our identities by losing them in Christ! To conform to Christ is to find our true names. Just as Peter was told his name, once he was shown who Jesus is, so we begin to find our names, as we find The Namer. Since, everything in its true form is centered and founded in The Maker, we too find ourselves and the ability to just be ourselves, as we allow Jesus to wear us like clothing. We get free to be, as we enter more deeply into His Life. Many Christians have gotten confused on this being conformed to the likeness of Christ matter. We are being conformed to His Life, and as this happens are also being freed up to be ourselves–our true selves. Our eternal selves. Then we no longer have to put on the mask of Christ, we have Him inside of us, and He ends up wearing us, so we are free to truly be ourselves. Christians should be the most authentic expressions of being human on earth. Let’s be that.
The path to true identity is in Jesus. He can reveal us to ourselves, and share us with others, that is Christian ministry. Allowing Jesus to express Himself through who He made you to be. He takes pleasure in that type of collaboration. His Being with your being. He made your personality and wants to make it shine in Truth. The Truth is His Life in us. Don’t put your light under a basket, we are to be a city shining on a hill. We are free to let His Light shine out through the authentic poetry He made us to be.
When we center everything in Jesus, we are free to start really living.
Identity and authenticity are two huge aspects of ministering the Kingdom on earth. We don’t have to wear a christian mask to be in Him, we can have direct communion with Christ, and be ourselves. There is no other way to find our who you are, your purpose and your path prepared beforehand, but in Him. And He has all of those things within His Own Heart, waiting to be discovered. He loves it when we come to Him in faith and ask–who am I really Lord? Search me and know me. That gives Him room to help you become what He already knows you are.
Our creativity then naturally just flows out from this true place of identity. It is authentic expression because it is centered in the Author of Identity. Identity then is intricately linked with our creativity, and both are meant to be centered and discovered in Christ. He is the Author of our identity. And Lord with and over our creativity. We can steward the earth in creative collaboration with Christ. This gives Him pleasure.
We start with who we are, move on to how and what we express–the two are integrated in Him. He then is allowed to be Lord over and lover of the whole person. That’s His desire. And is our hope. As Christians, those centered in Christ, we are free to be ourselves and express it. Being conformed to His Image, is then to find our own True Image. The real version of ourselves comes clear.
This is a healing journey because we are a broken image of ourselves, and He wants to make us clear and whole in Him. Our broken image of ourselves, even as the center of our own universe, must visit the Cross of His Healing to be healed. This is just so we can see, even ourselves properly–as sinners in need of a new Center. Then can extend out to others and His creation.
This is how art relates to healing. He wants to come in and baptize our imaginations in His, even in order to give us a clear picture of ourselves, much less the world or others, or The Father. The healing of the imagination allows us to start to see more accurately who God is. Outside of just our experiences, we begin to see who He really is.
We necessarily then worship Him, because of who He is. So this process leads us to worship naturally. And we are then free to do so in ways which are authentic to our true selves. This is how to create authentic worship. When Christians are being themselves in Him, authentic expressions of worship will flow out of them organically. So will missions and the many other structures. The wineskin changes organically if we are truly centered in Christ in our identities. You will see new forms, new songs because we have become new people.
We are born with broken images of ourselves and God. For this to be corrected requires us to re-center in Christ. Once, we do, we begin to see ourselves and the world more through His Eyes. Our spiritual perception gets enlightened. And is transformational in every area of our lives.
If you were to do a series of self-portraits before and after knowing Christ, you would see a radical difference. Our creativity reflects this dramatic shift in who we are. Regardless of what type of art we chose to make, it has an authentic source. Our Source is our relationship with Jesus at the core of our hearts where we lose ourselves to find true selves.
There are many benefits to meeting Jesus. The ones I’m emphasizing in this article are: knowing our true identities, being able to integrate our creativity with our spirituality, and being able to express who we are authentically. So that our outer mirrors and flows from our centered inner life. When we center ourselves in Christ, everything changes, and we begin to know who we really are, and how Reality actually is. We start to have a less broken image of what life is, our part in it, and who He is. God is One, and wants us to be integrated as well. He wants us to know who we are, because He made us. And is the only one who can reveal this to us, and allow us to begin to express it creatively in collaboration with Him.