The thing about being an artist is sometimes you’re the last one to know. I spent a lot of my life making art – copying down song lyrics, taking photos of things at odd angles, making up short stories in my head – but I never called it art. I just called it foolishness.
In an email written in January of this year, my friend Annie said this: “2011. We will make art.” And those five words have begun a revolution inside me, inside the way I see my life and the way I’m choosing to live it.
I’ve grown up as a good girl and it’s difficult to be the kind of good girl I was and also be an artist at the same time. Art means risk and risk means courage. I don’t think I was a coward, but I do think I lived life too small.
I’m learning what it means to let go of the life that tries so hard. Not that I don’t try anymore, I do. But I’ve let go of the right to have to succeed. In so doing, life is taking on a new and beautiful shape. It looks like joy and it smells mint fresh and it sounds like mourning and laughter all rolled up together. Because that is what life is. When we embrace the whole of it, when we refuse to compartmentalize and simply live in this moment, worship tumbles out.
I wrote a book called Grace for the Good Girl because I was one and I needed it. I needed to know that grace was for the girls with the vanilla stories and the scandal-free life. I needed to believe that beauty and art can come from more than just trauma. I needed to put down on paper the deep truths of Scripture that have carried me to this place where I stand today.
Writing has helped me see, similar to how carrying around a camera does the same thing. I used to feel guilty about that, felt like when I had time to myself to think and reflect, I needed to sit and be still without always having to pick up a pen or grab my laptop to write something down. But as I’m learning more of Jesus and letting Him know me, He shows me how He has made me. And He has made me to write. In the beginning He created the world with words alone and he creates the same way through us today. When we embrace the beauty of our unique design, when we recognize that He has made us to be unique expressions of Himself, when we receive the gifts he has equipped us with and have the courage to pour them out, we worship. What else would it be?
Book Review by Emily Wierenga
I didn’t think this book applied to me. As a pastor’s daughter, I’ve always tried hard to appear bad. Everyone assumed I was good and boxed this artist-soul in. I hate boxes. So I bust free with dreads, facial piercings, stretched ears and a tattoo. But try as I might I couldn’t keep her words from gutting me, words which spoke to the little girl within, words which made me realize I wanted to appear bad for fear of never being good enough.
“… We subconsciously label ourselves as the strong ones, the responsible ones, the sweet ones or the right ones,” Emily writes. “We try to stand tall and capable… But Jesus is calling us to a deeper, truer, freer identity. All he wants is simply you… When you really believe that, you may discover that all you want is Jesus, simply Jesus. Not just to go to heaven or to help you be a good person or do the right thing, but to simply love and be loved by him.”
This invitation to “simply love and be loved” made me curl into a ball, the kind of ball my two month old becomes in the curl of my arm, the kind that begs infancy and dependency and tired.
I was tired of trying. Tired of trying to convince everyone I wasn’t the good pastor’s daughter or the capable teacher’s wife or the tough-wearing artist. Tired of pretending to God that I could handle it all, that I prayed simply because he told me to and not because I needed to, that he was an accessory on the chain around my neck and nothing more. Tired of lying to myself and to my husband and to my children and wondering why I ever felt the need to do so in the first place.
So I curled up in a ball and let go. Her words gave me the strength to let go, and in doing so, my palms opened wide and I was able to receive. The love that said it was okay to be me. The love that died on a cross so that I could be more than me. The love that made a woman like me break an alabaster jar.
“‘Jesus Saves’ is not just a religious slogan,” Emily tells me. “It is my present-day reality. He saves me from every girl-made inclination I have to make this life work and from the fleshly mask I hide behind when it doesn’t. He saves me from my failures as well as my successes. He saves me from the shame of my mistakes as well as the pride of my achievements. He saves me from trying to suck life out of the accolades this world has to offer by placing me safely in him, hiding with Christ in God.”
For none of us is good. Only God is good. And that, my friends, is grace.
*If you want a free copy of this amazing book, let me know in the comment box. Tell me why you want it, and I’ll choose three people at the end of the weekend to gift it to.