Artists are bent toward pain and suffering and brokenness.
Van Gogh cut off his own ear after an argument with a friend. Charles Dickens and Tennessee Williams suffered from clinical depression. So did Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, and Virginia Woolf.
Make no mistake – artists are people who live in either heaven or hell, while the world around them has learned to live somewhere in the middle.
And if you want to go to Scripture to gather some suitable stones for throwing toward our Tribe, you’ll be hard pressed to find them. Scripture seems to embrace the pain and suffering of any person, not only artists. At almost every turn, the Psalms pour out pain and heart-wrenching admissions. Large sections of the Major and Minor prophets offer a unique vision of what it looks like when an entire nation moves through intense suffering, and there’s even an entire book (Lamentations) whose very title indicates a scream or a cry from people who have lost everything.
An artist’s pain is not the issue. It’s assumed. Some of us need medication to get our brains back into balance, but even that’s not the real issue.
The real issue is what artists do with the pain that haunts them, that haunts us.
The expression of your pain needs to be a story that you put words to. If you’ve bought into any version of Christianity that tells you not to communicate your pain story, then you’ve bought into something that’s not authentic Christianity. Your pain and brokenness must become a location that you’re willing to visit.
But – especially for those of us with an artistic temperament – the easiest and most unintentional decision we can ever make is to create a home in our pain and suffering. We move in, we set up shop, and we live there. If we’re not self-aware, we can actually make our brokenness a source of pride. We make pain the destination. We become those people who, for some reason, become more attracted to the crucifixion than the resurrection. We want to make Friday the story of our lives, not Sunday.
The issue isn’t whether we suffer or not. The issue is not whether or not artists experience pain at a different level than the rest of the world. The issue is what artists do with their pain.
Is our pain a place we visit, dragged into that location kicking and screaming?
Or is our pain a home we move into after admiting defeat?
IS OUR PAIN A HOTEL OR A HOME?
This is very intense and personal for me, because I’ve experienced my fair or unfair share of pain and suffering. But I have learned that this is not my home. I’ve learned that the best art I create may indeed by from the intensity of my pain, but that doesn’t mean I sign the mortgage and hire a moving company.
I’ve learned that Friday is not a destination, but rather a pathway into Sunday.
There is crucifixion, and there is resurrection.
I choose the latter.
I hope you do too.