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By Kate Silber, Nexus ICA Co-Founder.

The Arts feel attacked again. It’s been a more or less permanent position for, well, centuries really. We can all attest to the gradual removal of arts related subjects in school curriculum in recent years, and what appears to be a gradual decline of the arts taking their valid and valuable place in education. The latest thing we’re all up in arms about is the Chancellor’s alleged statement about those in creative pursuits needing to retrain. You may have written a long blog post about this yourself; it’s caused quite a conversation. One of my friends wrote a piece in the style of a letter to Rishi Sunak and among other things, said something like this; ‘I can’t retrain, it’s who I am’. That got me thinking.

It got me thinking about three things. Firstly, about one of my favourite Biblical Characters; Bezalel. Secondly, about the deeper issues of identity. Thirdly, it got me reflecting on how we are preparing our own ‘creatives’ at Nexus ICA for what governments now seem to be calling ‘an uncertain future’. So, there’s 3 blogs waiting to happen right there, and if it’s OK with you we’ll go with Bezalel this month with a reference to thoughts 2 and 3.

God’s definition of you is accurate

Bezalel shows up in Exodus, specifically in Exodus 31 for the first time. God’s plan for him had to be somewhat paused (read Exodus 32 – 33) but was back online by the end of Exodus 35. Bezalel was chosen by God for an amazing task – overseeing the building of the tabernacle according to the design God had given to Moses. We know nothing of Bezalel’s life before that point. Let’s assume that like every other male who came out of Egypt he was good at making bricks, but perhaps had limited time and resources to devote to artisan work. Now he has the time, and the resources, but his CV isn’t looking that great. No previous experience. In the midst of that scenario, God uses the word ‘chosen’. Here it is in the NLT:

Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!

Note that master craftsman isn’t the first in the list. Before that, God draws attention to filling him with 1) the Spirit of God, 2) great wisdom, 3) ability and then 4) expertise or skill. The NKJV puts it this way:

And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship

Bezalel didn’t appear to argue with God when he was chosen for the task. He allowed God to redefine him and he engaged not only in the work itself but also in training others in the work.  He had to trust that God’s definition of him was accurate, not what his past, his upbringing, his nationality or his experience told him. Bezalel might have said, ‘You must be joking God, I am a labourer’, but it appears that he accepted his new identity and got on with it.

What else did Bezalel do? He didn’t seem to utter an under the breath ‘FINALLY’; finally, I’ve been noticed for my gift, finally I can create something I’ve had in mind for years, finally I get to do something creative rather than just collect Manna with everyone else. He engaged in the work under Moses’ command and as the Lord had commanded Moses. Can you imagine how amazing that journey must have been? And talking about being under Moses’ command; when the tabernacle is set up in Exodus 40, we read that Moses apparently did the whole thing. What did the creatives get? A blessing. Oh, and the manifest presence of God in the thing they had built.

God’s re-definition of you is accurate

God’s redefinition of characters in the Bible is a well-known story.  You thought you were a fisherman; now you are a fisher of men. You thought you were a brickmaker; now you are a craftsman. You thought you were an unknown woman; now you are the one chosen to give birth to the Son of God. You thought you were a farmer; now you are a prophet. You thought your age defined you; now you are a spokesperson for God. You thought you were an expert in the law; now you are a son of God and a messenger of the gospel. You thought you were a shepherd of sheep; you are now a shepherd of people. I could go on..

I’m aware that all of these examples above seem like promotions. That’s not quite the same as ‘you thought you were an artist; now you are out of work and not trained for anything else.’ However, all of the above people had to face their identity in some way and realise it wasn’t in their work or what they had been previously told about themselves. Their previous job didn’t define the core of who they were. They were given skills, gifts, perseverance, determination and sight to be able to activate what they had been called to do.

Be the song, not the singer

So.. what on earth are we doing at Nexus ICA running degrees in practical, creative subjects. One might argue that a degree you can do from home, which puts you on a journey of working from that same place might be the best option right now. Not one which relies on community, audience and venues being open. We are aware that jobs in creative industries are somewhat hard to come by at the moment.

However, we recognise that by offering an education in creative arts, we are offering the chance to discover the depths of the creativity, skill, wisdom and understanding that every person has access to in Christ. This will be expressed in playing guitar, in running events, in serving a local community. It will be seen in arriving to a job on time, in supporting co-workers, in being an encourager. Creativity is expressed in helping to find answers to a problem, in encouraging a friend with a song, in offering a single gift into the glorious body of Christ to see something remarkable built that God can inhabit. It is the door-opener to a non-believer, the soother to a restless soul, the language that crosses all barriers.

We believe that there will never be a time or context that will make expressing the nature and character of God and His Kingdom the wrong thing to do. In that regard, this IS who we are. We may find ourselves having a job that doesn’t tick the creative boxes. But in all circumstances, we will be the song, not just the singer; the poem not just the poet; the message, not just the messenger. Like Bezalel, we will grasp hold of our identity first. We’ll know that God gives us wisdom, understanding and His Spirit to carry out all that which He has asked us to do.

Cover photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Creative arts and your identity as an artist

  1. Really enjoying reading these blog posts – there’s so much to consider here – as a “creative person” I feel like I’m constantly having to be reminded that my skill or ability isn’t the primary focus to God. Rather like I’m always learning to let character or Gods wisdom flow in creativity instead of starting from my skill level first.

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