If you missed Part 1 of this four-week blog series, “New Year Challenge”, please read that one here before reading this one. I have a lot of being vulnerable to do this week, so I’m going to jump right in. Through 2016’s yearlong creative challenge I learned (again) that God’s ways are not my ways. I thought that challenge was about changing my style, but God purposed it to be about changing me.
If you will recall, this time last year I wrote a post that laid out my personal challenge of creating a new piece of art each week. In that post I said, “Please keep in mind, these will be small, quick works of art…nothing like my big, detailed watercolors. I may spend 5 minutes on some and 5 hours on others, depending on my week and the subject matter. This year-long challenge is not about sharing great work (though I hope to!), but about further developing and expanding my gift. It will be about more expression and less perfection.”
Big sigh. So, it is no secret that I am a perfectionist; but what I didn’t realize was just how deep rooted perfectionism is in me. The grip of it can be painful, debilitating and far reaching at times. I get so down on myself for the way I need things to be perfect. There are days that I long for the ability to live outside the confines of perfectionism; for the self-control to rule over it rather than the other way around.
Why am I sharing all of this? To help you understand why I drifted so far from my original vision of spending “5 minutes on some and 5 hours on others”. Very few pieces last year took me less than 5 hours and NONE of them took 5 minutes. As a result, almost every piece was overworked, thus falling short of my goals. While several factors played into that, if I am very honest with myself, the biggest reason was my fear of posting less than perfect work; THE VERY THING I WAS TRYING TO AVOID!!! It’s true.
While I chose to walk that challenge out publicly to keep me accountable each week (which it did), I’ve been very curious over just how different each piece would have looked if I knew I wasn’t posting them. I am confident those works would have been far looser simply because the weeks I did a quick sample piece just to get a feel of the colors or technique, those 60 second pieces had the looseness I was craving for when I was ‘trying’. Interesting, right? Yes, there was a LOT less time invested in those quick references, but there was also freedom to fail.
Somewhere along the way I had allowed what was supposed to be ‘practice’ each week to become ‘performance’. Through that realization, God exposed my need to refocus my gift on His purposes and not the applause of man. My reason for painting must remain pure to carry God’s anointing. At my core, my heart is not to ‘impress’ people with my work, but to ‘move’ them. Unfortunately, my focus got off last year and as a result, I got extremely burned out at the end.
I was down on myself for not ending the challenge as strongly as I desperately wanted to, but my friend Amy helped me to look at it from a different perspective. Remember how I said I originally wanted to paint a sunset on my final piece, “He Enables Me” (painting above), to represent the close of the year-long challenge? Well, here’s what she told me… “The sky – I actually personally love that it wasn’t a sunset, but a blue sky. I see it as a fresh beginning! It is not the end of a challenge, but a fresh start as you are carried into a New Year, a new freedom. Every struggle, every sleepless night, every tear you might have shed over a week was not for nothing, but has carried you to a new place as an artist. The artist he continues to call you to be.”
God saw a greater need to change me than to change my art last year, and it’s a change that is still taking place to make me into the artist He wants me to be. Not a perfect one. Not a pretending one. Not a performance-based one. Rather an artist, as Lysa TerKeurst says, “…whose character has been developed to carry the weight of (my) calling.”
So, as you pursue your own goals and challenges this year, I’d like to remind you of two things: First, resistance (even if that resistance is you) can be good if you don’t give in to it. It brings revelation and builds the ‘muscle’ and character that is needed to fulfill God’s purposes in our lives. Second, keep your focus on Him as you move forward in your goals, remembering that we should be living for an audience of One.