About a month ago I went through a season of feeling incredible doubt in what I do as an artist. This wave hits me ever so often and I don't know how to shake it sometimes. The feeling can be overwhelming and discouraging--feelings of self doubt, if what I do is significant, if I myself am "worthy" enough to be a so called artist. I wrestled through these feelings with my husband, with friends, and God as I tried to dig deep and find where they were coming from. I didn't want to continue to sit in this feeling until it just "went away", but instead take it head on and understand what it might have to offer me in growth and maturing. So I sat down and wrote about it all--how old I was when I started feeling this way, the certain events that happen when the doubt comes in, and the lies I begin to tell myself soon after.
A few hours later, a friend randomly forwarded me this article by the incredibly articulate Ann Voskamp. What struck me in reading this was the truth of all humans being made in the image of God--something I've always believed in my head, but never really grasped in my heart. Anne writes in her post:
All humans are equal — because all are equally made by God.
I read further along as this truth stuck with me. The article was written in light of MLK day and our equality as humans and it was striking me in a real personal way as I was wrestling with the doubts of my talent, and who I am. And then I read this:
The whole concept of the Imago Dei…the ‘Image of God’ is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected…This gives him a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity.
I realized then and there the doubts I felt were deeply connected to comparison. Without even realizing it, I wasn't just comparing my work to someone else's, but I compared my worth and value to the worth and value of someone else. Gosh did that feel hard!
Because, if the truth is that we are all made equally, then we are all on the same level ground so then there's really no comparison at all. If the truth is that we are made in God's image, then we each have a unique, God-given worth that is incomparable to someone else. And those words above- uniqueness, worth, and dignity- hit my like a ton of bricks (in a really good way, of course). I began to see that when I live out of this truth, that I'm already unique and worthy and gifted, then I have something to offer the world that only I can give.
The next day, I decided to listen to the new Avett brothers album that I hadn't heard yet. Some of my most inspiring and thought provoking moments come through listening to music that I love. The thoughts and revelations I had gone through the day before weren't really on the forefront of my mind as I began to work. I sat there painting and listening to the new tunes without paying attention to any of the lyrics. The album's title song "True Sadness" started playing. The words in it weren't particularly sticking out to me until I suddenly heard this:
"Just know the kingdom of God is within you, even though the battle is bound to continue."
Right then I knew God had given me that little moment to remember the truth of all he was teaching me from the previous day. The kingdom of God is within me because I am made in the image of God. And because I am made in the image of God I have been given uniqueness and talent and belonging and worth. It was a gift that was given to me- a gracious gift, not something I earned. Everything I had written down and read through in that article and listened to in those lyrics started to come together in a pretty beautiful way to me. It was these little snippets that were speaking to my heart in telling me who I am. I was seeing more clearly that since this is a gift given to me, the only way I will ever find true freedom from the lies and doubt is by living out that I get to give this away as a gift to others.
And at the core, that is the only way I want to live my life, do my business, and create art--out of giving it away as a gift rather than striving to "be better than" or try harder to be something I already am-- unique, and gifted, and worthy.
The battle will certainly continue. I know there will be times I will be struck with fear or doubt again, but moving forward I now have this to hold onto: the kingdom of God is within me--its in all of us really. And to me, there's nothing more beautiful, life giving, and inspiring than that.