At the Interface conference two weeks ago we spent quite a bit of time discussing what it means to make art that blesses those it reaches.
In the bible, the word bless means ‘enlarge’. To bring a blessing is to enlarge the thinking, living or actions of another.
Blessings and good feelings are not the same thing. Sometimes God gives a blessing but it comes as a painful experience. Think of Jacob who wrestled God in the middle of the night and came away with a blessing that caused him to limp. When the Holy Spirit convicts me to change my attitudes or my actions this always comes as a painful experience yet I am enlarged as a result.
Sometimes art needs to ask the difficult questions. Sometimes the making of art can be a painful experience for the viewer and also for the artist but the fruit of such labours can bring great blessing. Recently, I saw Steven Spielberg’s, ‘Schindlers List’ again. I couldn’t say that I ‘enjoyed’ the film or it made me feel good yet I was certainly enlarged by being reminded of such sacrificial kindness and genuine heroics. The film is beautiful and excellent: a memorial and a blessing. It shows so much of what is good in God's world, finding beauty (truth) in the most horrific of circumstances but it does not make us feel good.
The opposite of blessing is curse. The biblical word curse means ‘reduce’. To curse someone is to reduce then in some way.
Sometimes art appears as though it is bringing a blessing where actually is brings a curse. Art that offers sentiment, insincerity or that panders to popular ideals serves more as an anaesthetic than is does a blessing. Art might feel good but actually brings a reduction in thinking, living or actions. Dare I go on about it again but much kitsch art brings more a curse than a blessing in that it reduces our understanding of God and his creation rather than enlarging our relationship with him.
As I head to the studio this morning my prayer is for the Holy Spirit to help me work at my art so that through difficulty there might be something that enlarges both my understanding of God’s reality and the thinking of those it reaches.