One danger in living the artistic lifestyle is the lure of living through your art. It is easy to begin to believe that the art you create is, in fact, more important than the life you live.

Whether it’s the thought that our art will still be around when we are not, or that our art’s impact on people’s lives is so much easier to tabulate than the sum of kindness offered to strangers. It’s a tempting lie to believe.

But why?

Many of us begin making art after we find that creative work can inflate our identity.

It starts out innocent, but can quickly turn sinister.

We paint a picture as a child and get accolades, and the hook is set.

We try to create bigger, better works of art, and when others don’t respond the way we hope, the hook draws blood.

So we pour more of our life into our art than into actually living, and the hook tears us open.

We bleed onto our canvas, destroying the art and falling into despair.

The urge to identify ourselves by what we do is a common and healthy urge that God built into us.

But when it’s focused on the wrong object, the results can be catastrophic.

Whether you’re the most famous artist in the world, or doomed to obscurity, your art is not nearly as important as who you are when no one’s looking.

Life is not about work, art, or pleasure. It’s about worship.

The only way we can ever truly take hold of joy is when we find our identity through worshipping God. When the measure of our goodness is how well we reflect the glory of our Creator.

Deep down we know that, on our own, we’re empty. We were built to be vessels filled by God’s Spirit. To live in community with God, and with others.

When I went to Haiti, I visited an orphanage started by Mother Teresa.

In Haiti, many parents can’t make enough money to support their infants, so they put them in orphanages and visit them on the weekends. Other orphans have just been abandoned by prostitutes and women who can’t bring themselves to cope with the terrible circumstances thrust upon them by greedy men.

When I walked into the orphanage, I saw nearly a hundred babies in cribs. Some were wailing, others were silent. All were nearly catatonic. The ones who were crying wouldn’t even make eye contact when I walked by.

When I asked what was wrong with them, I was told that many of the children in that orphanage would die because they were never held. They would literally die from social deprivation.

Those babies had lost hope that anyone would hear their cry. Still, they cried.

We are built for love. None of us can operate in a vacuum for very long before falling to pieces.

Artists many times isolate themselves in order to focus more on what they’re creating. But in our quest for identity, we can very easily forget that we are Christ’s, and end up losing ourselves in the process.

God, be with us. Remind us to daily put you before our work, art, and personal enjoyment. Help us to find our identity in you, and only you.

Amen.