“I saw the Spirit descending from heaven
like a dove and it remained on him.”
~~ John 1:32
Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. When he came out of the water, the descent of the Spirit of God was visible and its presence was visible and its presence in the person was noticeable. Maybe he had a new strut, a confidence in his manner, a look in his eye, or a set to his jaw that said, “I know who I am and I know my purpose.” Maybe he was like the infamous Stella, who got her groove back, when she discovered what brought the most meaning to her life.
When we are in the midst of our passion and our calling, the Spirit seems to be upon us. We are in a “zone,” as the athletes say. We are unaware of trying to achieve or produce, but energy seems to flow through us. We are “on target,” we hit the “sweet spot,” and move without straining. We are at the height of our powers, maybe even beyond our best! We are unstoppable! This might be a record setting crowd-pleasing day!
When preachers are “bringing the word” or “telling it like it is,” a power from above seems to fall upon us, for we lose ourselves in the stream of words that flow unbidden and unsought from the inner depths of our hearts, minds and souls. This isn’t to say that we don’t prepare our texts, study our lessons, or spend time contemplating our scripture verses. An unprepared preacher is a bad preacher, or at best, on who repeats the same sermon over and over. We may carry an outline up to the lectern, podium or stage, but this merely serves to keep us on track and on the idea we are emphasizing that day.
People worry that crying babies will disturb their pastor: more likely it disturbs the congregation. When I preached, I was never aware of any sounds. I could see faces and their response to the message, so I knew when to elaborate a point and when to move on. I was in a “zone” when the Spirit fell on me. My voice changed, my posture changed, and I wasn’t the person I was from day to day. My ordinary self notices noises, movements, and changes of light, as if I were hypersensitive to each alteration in my environment. When I preach, I forget all about those things and focus only on the word God has given me for this time and place. From my personal experience, I would say, there is a visible change when the Spirit falls upon someone.
In our studios, we would like to have the Spirit fall upon us from the moment we walk in and remain upon us during the whole of our working time. We would like to be in that “zone of creative fervor” in which time and space does not exist for us, but only the conversation and interaction with our art matters at the moment. We want to be with our paints, our clay, our wood, our fiber, or any other medium as if they are our beloved who has returned after a long journey. We want to be at one with them and enjoy them so deeply that we fall together in a unified whole in a single burst of ecstasy, after which is birthed a creation of great beauty, an inspired work of art.
Why does this not happen? For that matter, why do we seem to lumber at our labors, both artistically and spiritually? We sleepwalk through our studios and doze in our faith lives. When I say faith life, I don’t mean the one hour we segment for weekly worship, but the 24/7/365 life we live as human beings before God. If we want to live with purpose and passion, both as a spiritual person and as an artist, we need “outside help.”
“I can do it myself!” How many times have I said this since I was two years old? I seem to have raised my arm and stubbornly made time stand still, because my mantra is still “I can do it my self!” I don’t like to ask for help, not from other people, and not even from God. I would save myself if I could, inspire myself if I could, do it all by myself if I could, but then I hit the wall. A task is too big, a goal unobtainable, I lack all the necessary skills, or illness strikes me down. I discover that my “Lone Ranger” personality isn’t fully human and never will be divine. Even Jesus had the twelve disciples as friends and co-workers. Our one God has the fellowship of the Holy Trinity for comfort and shared work. We all need power in our lives, a power that falls on us from heaven and stays with us to unite us to God and God’s purpose for our lives: “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared before hand to be our way of life” (Ephesians 2:10).
Today, give your life over to a higher power than yourself. Let God be at work in you through his Spirit for good works, both inside and outside your studio. When the “I want to do it myself” words rise up, ask God for help instead. It will not make you less, it will make you more human and more in touch with the divine. You may even “get your groove back!”