I spoke at a single’s gathering last week, and as I spoke, I again felt it in my gut: This is what I am supposed to do. To speak. To hear from God and share what I’ve learned with others.
And still the doubts lingered, even after that rush of knowing. Does it matter? Do my words matter? Does my art matter?
Have you ever felt that way?
- Does the job I do from 9-5 every day matter in the grand scheme?
- Does the parenting I do in the margins and chaos of life matter five years from now?
- Does my unseen work where only the Almighty knows my toil matter?
- Does the quiet hours of night as I care-give to a dying relative make a dent in the Kingdom of God?
- Does the book I wrote that seemingly no one reads matter for more than the hours I invested?
We all have these questions, among others. We struggle to call our work, art, even though it absolutely is. Work is pregnant with creativity because it is full of our efforts, our sweat, our insight, our hopes. It comes from us, and the Creator makes creatives.
Even so we fret about significance. We hope that our daily work musters notice, only to feel like inconspicuous wallflowers in the dance halls of life. We do our work, faithfully, but with a quiet ache inside, wondering . . .
Does my art matter?
Does what I do matter?
A year ago a friend called me. He had heard something from God about me. This call came at one of the lowest parts of my career, one of those times I really, really was going to quit. (To be authentic here, I have struggled with that question several years now, but THAT time, the decision to quit seemed inevitable). He told me three things. But one stands out.
“You have no idea the influence your work has.” He inferred that in eternity, I will fully know that impact, but here I will not know.
For someone who likes to notch a belt full of achievements this was encouraging and maddening. Encouraging because God DID see all my work. It DID matter. But discouraging because I knew I’d have to suffice to work in obscurity, not really know if what I created had right-now significance.
So I kept writing.
I kept “art”-ing.
And I think you get what I’m saying here because you have been there too. You know intrinsically that maybe this earth is a poor measuring stick. Maybe others may not applaud, but God sees. You struggle. You watch others have amazing success. And you do your work. You create. Your art is set free on the winds of this fickle world. Because you cannot not create.
But at night there’s that nagging sense that it’s all a stupid waste, coupled with that conundrum that most artists never see fame while they live, and for heaven’s sake, why don’t you just greet folks at Wal Mart and get it over with. (And there’s art in that job too).
All this swirled through my crazy brain last week after I gave my talk about simplicity and minimalism. I walked through the crowd, feeling a bit raw, as I had been very open during the speech, carrying a little bit of an authenticity hangover.
That’s when a man in his 70s tugged at my sleeve.
He looked into my eyes.
And he said those same maddeningly beautiful words.
“You have no idea what impact you have.” Almost verbatim what my friend told me a year ago.
When God wants us to know something, well, He repeats it, doesn’t He?
I thanked the kind man, caught a glimpse of eternity in his eyes, and filed his comments away to savor later.
So I could share those words with you today.
- You who labor in obscurity.
- You who love lavishly with no spotlight, certainly no fanfare.
- You whose prayers are sheer art, but performed for an Audience of One in a quiet, unassuming closet.
- You who stand on the brink of quitting because of so little applause.
- You who cannot make ends meet.
- You who feel your circle is too small to have significant impact.
It matters. Your art, your work, your life MATTERS. The God who sees in secret will reward you. That reward may not come with trumpet sound on the soil of earth, but be assured, the fanfare in heaven will humble you. All that you do today that is beautifully unseen will be seen and shown on those streets. Your work, your art will become the sweet gift you lay at the feet of the One who sees.
So please don’t give up.
Don’t be discouraged.
Rustle your wherewithal today and muster up some grit and keep on creating. Keep living your art. Because the world doesn’t need another cookie-cutter rendition of the same-old same-0ld. It needs wildly creative, beautiful YOU, living audaciously for the sake of mattering on the other side of heaven.
There’s only one you. And your contribution, no matter how it may appear to you in this moment, carries deep significance.
Carry on, friend.