“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” — Hebrew 11:1
“Art begins with resistance — at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor.” — Andre Gide
After two years of studying science at the university level, my daughter, Madelyn, switched gears and decided to study art at a different university. Despite a shaky start, she is now thriving with the challenge of the creative process. I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder — as I watch her transform seemingly nondescript materials into works of art — at the level of her faith throughout the process.
It got me thinking about my own faith and the faith of the world around me. I catch myself repeatedly clasping and grasping for the way things “should” be, rather than, like my daughter, trusting the process and allowing Divine Providence to work.
Instead, I keep resisting change and focusing on the downsides of 2020: negative attitudes, negative outcomes, negative requirements, negative situations, and on and on.
When Madelyn started in the art program, I witnessed her very real resistance to the process. Gone were the structures, rules, and methods of the scientific process on which she had relied. She was now being asked to create works that adhere to the rules demanded by each requisite medium, course, and/or instructor(s). While at the same time, she is likewise expected to “break the rules” in order to avoid creating pieces that are commonplace, cliched, or conventional.
During these early months of her transition, Madelyn would make statements of dislike and frustration regarding her assignments. She seemed so opposed to the requirements and loosely formed experimentations/expectations. But by the end of each of those early projects and classes, she exited the other side having mastered a new skill.
From Madelyn’s example I now understand that resistance is part of the process of faith. It is through the act of resistance that her faith is ignited. Then, as she wrestles with each new style, material or expectation, the embers of her creativity are fed, allowing the heat of the process to lead her through to the other side. By acting in faith, Madelyn is able to push through the growing pains of each project and is ultimately able to create something new.
Like Madelyn’s initial struggles with art, I, too, have been contrary with the changes around me. I have felt the opposition to things not being the way they used to be. Like an indulged child, my mind has thrown numerous tantrums and protestations. I have muttered countless grumblings. I am now realizing it is this very resistance that continues to spark me and all of humanity into adapting, evolving and creating a new way of living and being.
Faith, I am learning, isn’t blind acceptance that encourages the wave of our Maker’s hand, and, boom, we get our heart’s desires. Faith is work; it is a labor of love, devotion and effort. It is having the ability to believe in the unseen and to see that there is something new and original that can be formed through the friction of the struggle.
Through setbacks, changes and adaptation, faith is fortified. Through perseverance, sweat, and belief, the faith process continues to grow. Embracing belief throughout the struggle, The One greater than us is inspiring change and challenging us with new situations and demands in order to foster growth in the same manner as Maddie’s art teachers force exploration of new materials and tools in order to push her creativity.
When Madelyn starts a new art project, she typically starts with an idea. However, she cannot cling to one strict vision of the concept. Sometimes, certain materials aren’t available. Other times, what she originally envisioned does not work, plans get altered, materials and tools are changed, outcomes or timelines change — there are hundreds of tiny little changes and adaptations that contribute and influence her endeavors as well as the final product. However, in the end, through the humility of her strivings, a new product is created, and a new skill set has evolved.
That, to me, is 2020. The canvas we had at the beginning of 2020 was blank. Individual and collective visions for the final outcome of the year varied, but we all relied upon a certain amount of consistently available materials, timelines and predictable outcomes. Then, like the multitude of art projects I’ve observed Madelyn begin, things began to go off plan. We have been asked to follow some of the same rules, but not all rules, use this material, but not that material; likewise, we are asked to improvise as needed, and, in the end, we are now developing a new way of living.
Like an artist, we must overcome our own resistance. We must continue to work through the process, adapting and improvising when needed. The end product may continue to evolve and change, but through our collective endeavors, energies, and faith in the unseen, we must trust that Divine Providence is inspiring us to create a new work of life-art.
We are but tools in The Creator’s hands. Have faith.