The year after I stepped away from pastoral ministry was a difficult one. To help me process the feelings I was experiencing, I invited a counselor friend to coffee. His name was Ron, and he was amazing.
As a part of his life-giving words to me, he included this: “Gary. You are an artist. Because of this, you will experience higher highs than I ever will. But you will also experience lower lows than I ever will.” Then, he said something I’ll never forget.
“Don’t try to change that, because you can’t.”
And after I pursued that with him for the next thirty minutes, I began to understand that, in his counseling experience, artists tend to exhibit extremes. I had been trying to hide these extremes because the non-artists in my life kept trying to “correct” me.
What they were trying to tame, Ron was trying to leverage.
It’s Heaven and Hell.
As an artist, I will always react to difficult situations with more grief and sadness than most people. But the opposite is true, too. The smallest success or idea that allows me even the dimmest glimmer of hope will always cause me extreme joy. And I need to stop crucifying myself because of this. I need to stop trying to hide it.
I need to embrace it.
So do you.
The more people I come in contact with, the more I realize how rare it is to meet someone who gets genuinely excited about anything. It’s almost like people are scared to exhibit any real desire, for fear they’ll be shot down, or misunderstood.
For fear they’ll be corrected.
But make no mistake about it. The best art is borne in the joy of heaven, or the pain of hell. God-fearing artists will experience both, and God will beautifully interact with them in both places. But to create from Hades – to try to become artistically motivated from a place of perfect balance between heaven and hell – will cause artists to create safer art that is less impacting on the viewer, and frankly more boring.
I think it would feel like castration.
So while artists need to stop living and dying based on every whim of our emotions, we also need to come to grips with the fact that, for many of our Tribe, we will always exhibit high highs, and low lows. And when we place our ordinary lives on the daily altar as living sacrifices, we need to make sure and place this tendency on the altar as well, for God to mold and transform as He sees fit.
We may battle in this illogical space for the rest of our days.
But we should also learn to embrace its beauty.
Gary has been married to his wife Angela for 22 years, and is the father of three daughters. He is the author of PURSUING CHRIST. CREATING ART., a book that explores life at the intersection of faith and creativity. Gary is the co-owner of Floodgate Productions and Floodgate Creative, and is the Founder and President of The Floodgate Foundation.