My wife and I were walking to our community garden this morning when I was struck by how amazing all of the new flowers are. They have popped up over the past two weeks, bathing our neighbourhood in colour. I turned to my wife and said, “This is how I know God loves art: why else would the world be full of flowers and sunsets?”
You see, there are many, many beautiful things in this world that seem to have no real use other than to make life better. Colour is one of these things. We could be just fine without colour (dogs seem to do just fine without it), and it doesn’t at all seem necessary in and of itself. I can imagine a far simpler universe that had no colour. Yet, we do find colour, and we are often blessed by its inclusion in our lives.
For me, artists prove that God is alive and well. We do not strictly create things that are necessary for the survival of ourselves or our species, but no one I know would like to live in a world without art. Even those who don’t think art is very important probably wear clothes designed by an artist, listen to music created by an artist, and live in a building designed by an artist. A life without art would be like living in prison, and we tend to save that fate for those people we really, really don’t like.
So, if no one needs art to survive, but we all seem to need art to really live, I must ask the question: why? Why are we so drawn to art? I argue that it’s because God is an artist who designed us for more than mere survival. We are designed to feel, and to emote and to worship. And art allows us to do all of these things.
I’ve heard it quoted that art (or music, I can’t remember) is feeling made manifest. It allows us to put our feelings down for others to experience. In experiencing art, we can join in with the feelings of others, drawing us together as a people who are on the same journey: the journey to find meaning and purpose.
Art can also draw out our emotions, confront us with our fears, our joys, and our angers. Each time we engage a piece of art, whether it is music or a painting or a theatre show, we are given the opportunity to explore our emotional range, giving sustenance to that which makes us human.
In this place of emotion and feeling, when we are taken away from our own little world into something bigger, something beyond ourself, we are able to turn from ourselves to God. When we embrace His joy, His love, or His grace, we enter into an act of worship. When we walk with others through their trials, even through the medium of art, we are worshipping. When we let the world and all of its problems fade and focus on the divine eternity of heaven, we worship Him who created all of these things.
Many throughout the millennia have tried to define what the Book of Genesis meant when God tells us that humanity is created in the image and likeness of God. The imago dei has been argued to be our ability to reason, or our ability to love, or our ability to live in community. I don’t think these answers are all wrong, but I would put forward one other: our ability to create. Up to this point in the story, all that God has done is create the universe (all…) and judge it to be good. He then creates humankind, a being that is to be like Him in some way. Perhaps it is this very creative nature that makes us the bearers of God’s image.
As the summer continues to move forward, I am excited to revel in the beauty of God’s creation. I love the serene beauty of winter as well, but as a Canadian, we see far too much snow and far too little green, so I will enjoy this temporal beauty as long as it lasts. Like everything else of this world, our art will fade and be destroyed, but the moments we experience beauty and art can, if we let them, show us a glimpse of a perfectly beautiful, perfectly artistic God.