by Jonathan Settel
The following is a response to a letter that came to us from a brother who has been born again since 1995. He is a film-maker and an artist who questions "is his art His God, or is it of the Lord?" Is the emphasis on the gift, or the giver of the gift?
Thank you for sharing your heart with me. I empathize with your frustrations about not being able to tell if it's the Lord's Will or yours which motivates you. So many "Christian Artists" who vocalize their willingness to sing, to paint, to make movies and media experiences FOR THE LORD have missed the mark. We humans, especially we artists, have been told so often that "our art is an extension of ourselves", that artistic expressions are expressions of the soul and therefore benefit all mankind; that this artistic explosion of the inner-self is a direct result of an implosion of the famous worldly axiom, "ME-MY-MINE", that we actually believe all these things and feel that we are needed to make the world a better place. We typically trust that we are the messengers of that great Creative force in the sky to smooth life's wrinkles and sweep the dirt from the perfect puffs of pure white-gold streets on which we have been entrusted to walk on.
It is a tiring and cumbersome load to bear. It breeds isolationism and self-centered megalomania. It is the very opposite of "that great creative force in the sky," for that force is Yeshua HaMashiach and His Holy Spirit who has the job of inspiring and helping us to turn our gift UP and away from the original out and in.
When you became a believer in the Lord Jesus and gave him your life, you told him that all that you had, all that was given to you. . . all those incredible gifts and honors were to Him... to the One who gave you those gifts. I know you understand these things. I realize that you are struggling with the many years of mind control that the prince of this world has been whispering in your ears. Don't feel alone. He did to me for 25 years.
I was "saved" when I was 36 years old. I was working at Disney at the time with an acapella vocal group. They were all Believers! I thought I was hot stuff. I had been after all, in the night clubs and bars of the world. Where had they been? I had, after all, sung on the finest Cruise Ships and Hotels. I was a legend........., in my own mind.
The director of this group had lots of years and gray hairs. He was a man of great depth and understanding. I was a new believer, and still carried the stale odor of the world on me. For two years he did not allow me to have a single solo. All the rest of the bases, the tenors; all the men and the women had solos. All the rest could not "walk in my shadow." Arrogance was my constant companion. After the first six months, I began to ache and pain. My frustration grew and I was very angry. I was sure that I could sing better and stronger than the rest of the group. A year passed and I was beginning to get better at ensemble singing... That is, blending and control of the vibrato. I began to enjoy the additions of technique which came with group singing. Instead of loosing skill, I actually was becoming a more well rounded & more finely tuned vocalist. I didn't think about all of this yet. I was still "kvetching" and complaining. "When was I going to get a solo, when was I going to be able to show them I could do it?" Another six months passed. I was hitting walls and kicking anything in my path. I was straining at my proverbial leash. Two years passed and finally the day came. I was to sing the bass solo on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Oh glory!
I was like a race horse at the starting line, whining and straining. My director went to sit in the front row. He was about two feet from me; so close that he could see my uvula swinging at the back of my throat. There were about five hundred folks in the American Pavilion at EPCOT that day. Many fresh young and old faces. All eager to hear the famous "Voices Of Liberty" sing their favorite American Folk songs.
The pitch was blown and the singers began singing the beautiful orchestration of one of the best known songs in the United States. I stepped out of my spot and began with the words... "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord..." I was so consumed with how good I sounded that when it came to the second line of the song my brain suddenly went blank. GONE were the words, GONE were the notes. The group kept singing their "Oooo's and ah's" but the solo was turning rancid with the screaming silence.
All at once I heard my director, sitting on the front row speak the words of the song. Just slightly in front of the beat he spoke those words of life. Whilst ignoring his face, I heard him utter those words which saved me from total humiliation (at least from those of the third row and back. They couldn't hear my director feeding me my lines.)
Two years of waiting and stomping; two tears of ripping my selfish self centered ego from my spirit recapitulated at that very moment. My face crimson and flustered I finished my song.
In retrospect, it was the very best thing that could have happened to me. I learned great lessons from that ignoble experience. From time to time the Lord has brought me back to that vivid moment to remind me that it is not FOR HIM that I sing... BUT TO HIM. I sing these bits of musical moments TO THE LORD AND NOT FOR THE LORD.
The lesson here is a difficult one, but a very necessary one. You can always be among those who minister to the hearts of men and move the hearts of men, but if you want to minister to the King you must be willing to drop all that you have... All your gifts, all your talents, all your pride. You must be willing to be nothing more then a bare man, stripped of all that you hold dear and go through a small opening called "the Eye of the Needle." When you are able to do that; that is to drop all that you have and bow very low, all those things that you let go of will be waiting for you on the other side.
Brother, I do not know you, but I understand what you are about.
Be willing to drop all, to stop and to clean toilets and sweep stables. When you are able to do that, and to chase after the Kingdom of God, He will add much to you.
It is not your gifts that are important. As a matter of fact they are meaningless. The Lord is the only meaning of life and the Lord will bring all to full circle. Maybe you need to be broken a bit? To be hurt and cut back, so that you will grow strong and tall, like the towering Oak Tree. It will hurt, but it will all be worth it in the end.
How do I know? I'll tell you what I tell my little son... "I've been there and I know these things."
Keep in touch and I pray you won't have to hurt too much. I pray you will be able to go through the 'Eye of the Needle' and come out on the other side to Minister to the Heart of the King!