“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.’” ~~ Genesis 12:1
Finding a restroom in the States is pretty simple. Most of us eat in “box” restaurants, not that we always eat fast food. Every chain restaurant is built according to the same design, so the one in which I eat in my hometown is the same as the one on either coast of these United States. We may be divided in our politics, but were united in our affection for the Cheesecake Factory, the Texas Roadhouse, Olive Garden, and PF Chang’s China Bistro (Forbes, 2011: Ten Best Casual Dining List).
In a foreign country we are bereft of these common designs as we travel. Each day presents a new challenge, a new place, and new discoveries to be made. Travel can be exciting or overwhelming. Take the matter of finding the restroom in a foreign country. Will you understand the directions if you ask “WC?” and suddenly a rush of many words flood from the native mouth? If they point, how far is it and will it be one of those clean modern facilities or a stand up primitive lavatory? Some folks just decide to let the more adventurous do the discovery work and report back.
Some in our small band seem to have difficulty finding the restrooms without these common cues from home. They don’t ask if they don’t see the signs. The signs are hard to pick out among all the items offered for sale in every place that we stop! (Maybe they don’t play the hidden object games on iPad: today there were 591 results for hidden object games!) Perhaps because I am a firstborn child, I am a natural explorer. I just follow my nose because I “know it is there or I will walk until I find it.” Nothing will get between me and a bathroom break, for I am a woman on a mission when I have a need. Then again, I am a mother and have had a small child who loved to visit every bathroom in every facility she entered. I learned quickly to pick up on the cues for location of restrooms in every type of building you can imagine. We explored some interesting places! I can still see the look on that precious face that said, “Now! Mom! Now!”
“To go” now is implied in God’s command. To make a clean break from his country, his kin, and his family is a big deal. For Abram, for any of us, to turn our backs to all that we have ever known and loved would have been heart wrenching. If we are uncomfortable finding the WC in a strange land, we probably aren’t the type of folks who would chuck it all as Abram did.
I have met families in my ministry who have four generations living within a half mile of each other. My own family is spread across the entire USA. Perhaps my family has the type of faith required to “go to a land I will show you” rather than stay put among the known and the secure.
In this “journey to the unknown land,” faith and art have much in common. In art, we work from an original design idea or concept, but any piece that doesn’t grow beyond that initial premise hasn’t been fully developed. The same goes for our faith. If it doesn’t grow beyond our childhood notions of “being nice” and “Jesus is my friend” then we won’t have a robust or rigorous enough commitment that will help us stand our ground when the trials and tribulations of the road we travel assail us.
Insipid works of art, as well as faith that has lost its saltiness, aren’t worth much. I bought a painting for $10 at the Habitat Restore. The clerk said, “you got a deal.” Yes, I said. The frame is worth more than $10 and I’ll use the stretcher strips with new canvas and make my own new painting. The raw materials alone are worth $60. It’s a good buy, but it isn’t a good painting. Our faith can be like this painting: it looks pretty to someone without the ability to discern what is true and real, but it is only meant for destruction (Matt 5:13).
To turn our backs on all that we are and to go out to become some new creation is the very essence of faith. This is called “regeneration” or rebirth/new birth. It is the state of the believer who becomes a “new creation in Jesus Christ “(2 Cor 5:17). We are able to live a new life in Christ, to live as Christ, and to live sustained by the Holy Spirit. We will not live it perfectly at first, but we will grow into increasing holiness of heart and life over time.
So why do so many artists and people of faith hit a comfortable spot on their journeys and fail to move beyond it? Artists get comfortable with a style and recreate new works in the old style for commercial success. In faith, we get to the point where we don’t want to be challenged anymore, and we switch to cruise control for the rest of our lives, as we say, “I’m good enough; God will complete the rest.” Are we afraid to push beyond our small success? Do we think God isn’t big enough to take us farther? Or do we fear going too far away from “home?”
To discover the answers to these questions, draw your artistic and spiritual maps. Are they going to a land God will show you, or have you been taking the well-worn paths near home? Are you listening to the call God has placed on your heart? This may be the week to try a new medium just to shake out the cobwebs and to give you a challenge in your studio.