A few months ago, I had the incredible opportunity to meet my absolute favorite singer and songwriter. Nichole Nordemann’s music was literally the soundtrack to God’s taking hold of my heart when I was a senior in college, and I have ever since thought of her as something of a spiritual hero to me. I wrote in greater detail about her role in my long, slow, permanent change here —> Clouds Overhead
Since that time *ahem*teen years ago, her voice and especially certain songs have been sacred in my heart. Certain songs bring tears to my eyes with just the first few chords, and certain lyrics resonate so completely within my spirit it is as though I could have written them myself. So when I had the chance to meet Nichole – the one whose voice echoed in my first intimate encounters with my Savior – I literally ran for it. I was eating lunch after a women’s conference where she had been worship leader, and someone said she was inside signing books and CDs. I left my boxed lunch and my tote bag and my jacket and ran. I had to meet her.
I was terrified to meet her and didn’t know what I would say when I was in front of her, but I couldn’t let that opportunity pass me by.
I didn’t need to worry about my words, though, because when I walked up to her – she, who had seemed larger than life in my mind but who was just a beautiful person standing in front of me – the tears automatically overflowed and words spilled out. I apologized for my tears and did my best to tell my story: How I had been lost and wandering in college. How I was in a place of total desolation and desperation when my roommate was given Nichole’s CD for her birthday. How my roommate had no interest in Christian music and had tossed it onto a shared bookshelf in our room. How I had seen it laying there on my way out the door for a panicked study break. How I popped it into my Discman and put my headset on, desperately trying to drown out the noise in my head. (Side note: she and I both giggled at how my ancient technology references dated us both.) How I had lain on the grass and wept as her music flooded my ears and my soul and as the clouds shifted overhead. How something shifted in my heart as I listened and watched and cried.
Tears again poured down my face as I told her my story, and tears welled in her eyes, too. She thanked me for telling her that, and graciously gave me a hug and took a picture with weepy-me before she had to go.
It was such a beautiful thing, getting to tell her what her ministry had meant to me. I think it was a gift to both of us, honestly, as she seemed genuinely touched by what I had to say. (Who doesn’t like to hear that their hard work has paid off in someone’s life?)
It wasn’t until later that I realized my faux pas. In telling her how much I love her work, I had inadvertently told an artist that someone didn’t like her work. Now, any of us who pursue artistic endeavors – whether visual or musical or literary or whatever – know innately that not everyone will like what we create. Our first tiny baby steps into social media let us know that. Some really like it, some really don’t. It’s just reality for any of us who create; even so, I don’t think anyone likes to hear it and it never gets any easier to hear. But I had told a musical artist – one whom I love and respect greatly – that someone had flat out rejected her work. I was mortified.
But in the same string of thought in which I realized what I had done, before I could even completely let myself drown in the embarrassment of it, I realized something bigger. My roommate hadn’t liked the music….but she happened to leave it where I would find it. And my stumbling on that music? It’s no exaggeration to say it changed my life.
I’ve always been told that in God’s economy, nothing is wasted. Nothing happens to us that He can’t or won’t use for our good. Even the most devastating rejections and most painful losses cannot escape God’s endlessly beautifying hands. Everything is purposed for ultimate good. If it comes from Him, it will be good and it will serve a purpose. And that is never more true than when we are obedient to His call to create.
When God gifts us and calls us to create something, He is not promising that the world will embrace it and we’ll be adored for our masterpiece. He is not assuring that we’ll have instant praise or fame or wealth as a result of what we’ve made. He is not letting us take a fast track to popularity and success. Rather, He is inviting us to be a part of what He is already doing. He is allowing us to be vessels in His endless work of creation – using those parts of Himself that we find deep within ourselves to create beauty and inspire joy and bring a little bit of heaven into this broken world.
If you sing, sing proudly. Your voice joins with the chorus of God’s vast creation, glorifying the One who planted that voice within you and gave you the desire to sing. You are part of His creative work.
If you paint, paint with all your heart. Your brushstrokes mimic those of God when He paints the sky. You are a part of His creative work.
If you dance, dance with passion. Your movements join the movement of the trees as they sway in praise and of the ocean waves as they dance along the shoreline. You are part of His creative work.
If you garden, cherish the fact that you are engaging in the same creative work that began this world to begin with. Your hands are working alongside God’s to create the beauty that inspires millions. You are part of His creative work.
If you write music…play an instrument…sculpt masterpieces from formless wads of clay…cook culinary gems for your friends and family to enjoy…practice the art of hospitality, creating sacred spaces for people to belong….whatever you do, do it with all your heart. You are created in the image of the creator God, and you are part of His ongoing creative work in the world.
So friend, take this lesson from my (still kind of embarrassing) slip of the tongue: when God calls you to create something, follow His lead. Even if it seems insignificant or unappreciated or trivial, he will use it. It is He who brought everything from nothing, and your hands and voice and body and mind are part of what He is still doing in the world. Whatever you produce, if God has called you to produce it, it will bear fruit. It will not – like an unnoticed flower – wilt on the ground without anyone ever appreciating its beauty. It will not fall completely flat, because God wastes nothing….and especially not anything that is intended, with a pure heart, for His glory.
Will everyone like it? I can almost guarantee that they won’t. Will everyone understand it? Probably not. Will everyone think it is an essential part of the beauty of the world? With near certainty, I say no.
Will some take little interest in what you have poured your very heart and soul into creating, carelessly tossing your masterpiece on the proverbial dusty bookcase of the world and walking on without giving it another thought? It’s possible.
But could someone else pick it back up? Could someone else be captivated by it? Could someone else – possibly the one for whom it was intended anyway – be utterly changed by it? I boldly assure you that yes, they will.
So friend, do not be discouraged. Create anyway. Keep making your art. Keep working, however you do it, to create beauty in your world. I will keep writing, even when no one seems to notice. I will keep working on my secret projects, knowing that when the time is right God will launch them into the world. I will keep making my art of words, trusting that when I do it for the glory of the One who called me, He will use it in ways I cannot imagine. Someone might hate it and leave me a message in my comment box letting me know that. I might wonder if anyone is even reading it. But for someone else? It might change the world.
And so I will write on. I will create, because it is why I was made.