By Jonathan Foster
One of my favorite non-fiction books is called Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils and Rewards of Artmaking.
One of the authors tells of an exchange he had with his piano teacher where in frustration he said, “But I can hear the music so much better in my head than what comes out of my fingers.”
The instructor replied, “What makes you think that ever changes?” The teacher raised an expression of self-doubt to a simple observation of reality, and as he did uncertainty became an asset.
And you say, “I had the idea of this job looking so much better in my mind than it is actually turning out.” Or “My vision of this marriage was so much more fulfilling than it is revealing itself to be.” Or “I see the spiritual victories more clearly and victoriously happening in my mind’s eye than what is actually happening.” Or any number of things along those lines. Yet if it works out exactly each time just as you’ve guessed that it will, there would be no uncertainty.
And there would be no reason for faith.
Uncertainty can be your asset. The knowledge that this whole thing (i.e. art, job, marriage, dream, hope, etc…) could fall apart if you’re not careful is what can keep you praying, hoping, and persevering. Of course it can also be your downfall.
These uncertainties, combined with all the distractions of life, often form spiritually ADD people. Look around. It doesn’t take long to spot them. Thinking the next church, the next pastor, the next study or the next relationship is going to make them better they refuse to grow where they are planted. Double-mindedness seeps in and the root of faith never quite takes hold.
Kierkegaard, paraphrasing James, said, “Purity is to will one thing.” In other words, purify your desires by setting your mind on Christ. Make Him your “one thing” and use the distractions to grow your faith and drive you deeper into Him.
In the world of art, it means washing your hands of your issues and excuses. It means setting your mind on the task and refusing to be distracted. It’s focusing on the art that needs to be made even in the midst of _________ (fill in the blank).
Don’t spend too much time arranging the perfect spot or place in life to create. Just create. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it takes perseverance. Virginia Stem Owens says, “To spy out the reality hidden in appearances takes perseverance.” The appearance is that the distance between your vision and the actual execution is too great. This uncertainty can keep you focused.
Unless you quit.
Jonathan is a songwriter/poet/pastor from Phoenix, AZ. He is married and has three children, and he blogs at www.theproblemwithreligion.com.