How many of us think of our lives in terms of eternity? Do we make our decisions each day considering how they will affect not only the rest of our lives, but our afterlife as well? Today I want to talk about the concept of eternity and how it affects our work as artists.
Most of the religions and spiritualities I have come across in my journey recognize that we exist, or will exist, beyond the limits of our one life. Whether you believe in Heaven, reincarnation, or a higher plane of existence, the choices we make each day have significance that ripple beyond the here and now. The world we live in, however, with its rampant materialism, seeks to have us think only about what we can get from today. It takes a lot of effort to ignore the siren call of material gain to stay a course toward the beyond.
Some think that talking about the afterlife is morbid, but if this life is not all we have, then we really need to address the issue. For me, I have spent a long time trying to understand what the Bible says about life after death. We have been married to the medieval idea of Heaven and Hell for so long that I needed to sift through what we actually can say for sure about the life to come. I’ve spent time in the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, reading the ideas and thoughts of other theologians, and watching films and documentaries on the afterlife.
What I’ve come to understand is that there is hope for a life that is beyond pain, beyond fear, and beyond suffering. There will be a time when I get to stand before my God and live in His presence. All of the evil of this world will be gone, and I will enjoy an existence of such immense goodness that I am unable to even begin to comprehend it. The closest analogies we have include images of golden streets, trees of life, and cities of splendor. When the day comes, however, we will laugh at how small our ideas of Heaven actually are.
Artists have an added challenge of needing to understand how eternity will play out in their art. We must acknowledge the reality of the pain, defeat, struggle, joy, and victory of this life while also realizing that these are not the end of the story. How can we express the importance of love, struggle, heroism, and hope if there is coming a day when all of these stories will be gone. Is the struggle of Good and Evil so very important if we already know that Good wins in the end?
I think so.
If we believe that the choices we make today determine how we spend eternity, then we should be spending a lot of time figuring out how today and forever interact. How are we to act if we want to reach our eternal destiny? This can be the job of the artist, to explore and teach others about the eternal truths that we can learn on earth.
Hope is a prevalent theme in my work. Although there is tragedy in some of my writing, I am unable to leave a story half written. No tale is finished unless the reader or audience is left knowing that there is a way to a better ending. We are not condemned to a meaningless and tragic life because there is always a hope for a better tomorrow, even on the day of our death.
However, some people live their lives in a very dark world. Pain, misery, and suffering have left them unable to see the hope that lies just beyond the horizon. An ending that is too easy or too clean can leave such people with a bad taste in their mouths, for it does not ring true for them. This is the vitally important place where artists can paint the faintest strokes of hope, perhaps taking these people of the dark and leading them a couple steps towards the light. I don’t know exactly how this looks, for my art is rarely able to reach such dark depths, but I know that there must be faithful artists working in this area. I pray for their strength and success.
A final warning to artists: understand that your art, along with the other things of this life, will pass away. It may be a vital aspect of your being and a central calling in your life, but everything you create for this world will not come with you into the beyond. We must not put so much focus on our art that we end up worshipping it and jeopardize our eternal life. As a friend once told me, we must be on fire for our art and calling, yet hold it at arm’s reach. An impossible task, but one we must address if we will walk this path.
So, what does eternity look like for you? Where will you be the day after you die? If you call yourself an artist, how does your understanding of eternity influence your work in the here and now? Let me know!