Does It Matter?

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Create-Settle_800I have a friend who creates with fabrics and colors. An empty living room is her canvas of choice. She comes alive in the process of designing a room of beauty. Another friend uses spices and herbs, quality meats and farmer’s market vegetables to concoct rich and complex meals. She is most deeply rooted, both in her skin and in her creativity, when wearing an apron, hovering over a chopping block.

My own husband, he experiences the process of creating most fervently in preparing for and engaging in competition.  Whether mapping out a logical argument for a legal case, or scanning a basketball court to develop an effective way to score, he feels that divine fire inside of him ignite when creating a plan to face an opponent.

I attempt to use words, to somehow string together the thoughts and questions and doubts that swirl around inside of me.  When God feels distant and on the sidelines, I step into the arena of writing and find Him waiting.

We all know what it is to feel the spark of creativity rise within us. We also know what it is to stand in the disappointment of its squelched flames or to stand in the glory of its raging fire. There are reasons, plenty of them, why we shy away from chasing our creativity. But for me, and I don’t think that I am alone, there is one question that tempts me again and again to minimize the power of art. This question is, “Does it even matter?” 

Does it matter if a room is beautiful? Does it matter if a meal is more than just satisfying? Does it matter if the game or the case is won or lost? Does it even matter if a sentence is well-crafted? Does it matter if music is made or waltzes are danced? Does it matter at all if the garden grows or the business is developed?

The act of art and the process of creating do not seem to hold a candle to the trauma of loss or to the journey of grief. I can hold my art against my pain and see only that it does not compare. And there are times when I want to slam my computer shut, or to throw my favorite poetry book across the room. It all feels so very small when compared to the so very deep valley of sorrow. But time and time again, I come crawling back, back to the writing, back to the reading, back to the holy ache of art. And this leaves me wondering if maybe, just maybe, it is not quite so small.

Maybe, in fact, art does hold a candle to grief. Yes, I believe that is exactly it. It simply holds a candle, to give light in the dark, and to bring forth and illuminate the beauty that rises from pain. Perhaps there is no comparison between art and pain. But maybe they were never meant to be in competition, but always in communion, not opposing forces, but stabilizing necessities.

So I ask myself again, “Does it even matter?”

Oh yes, our art does matter. In fact, it is precisely because of all the sadness and all of the loss that it matters even more. It is not less important because of our devastation, but more necessary because of it. For when we create, we are not momentarily fleeing from the pain that we know. Instead, we are pressing right into it. This is where beauty is born. And beauty is air for the grieving soul.

In a world that groans of brokenness and screams of injustice, it matters that we hold our creative candles right up next to the pain. It matters that we write, design, compete, cook or build along side and right through the aches in our hearts and the aches in the world. All of the deep pain inside and around us does not diminish the power of creativity. No, in fact, it demands it. So let us go forth to shine the candles that He has lit, because it matters indeed.

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Settle Monroe
I am grounded to the earth in a beautiful life with two sons. I am rooted in heaven with the promise of life eternal with another son who leapt into his Father’s arms in October of 2011. I write about the joy and pain of living heart-broken but heart-swollen in the valley of love and loss at my blog, As I Walk.
Settle Monroe

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  • Erin Wilson

    Yes, yes, yes…

    • Settle

      Thank you, Erin

  • Anne-Marie

    ‘maybe they were never meant to be in competition, but always in communion’ so apt. And helpful. Thank you Settle!

    • Settle

      Thanks Anne-Marie

  • Briana Meade

    I have found that drawing/painting has helped the most in times of pain or when I am actually at a loss for words. For some reason, painting (especially abstract) seems to take away any rules/must-do’s. I can’t even imagine what you have gone through and hope that you have found some solace in both writing + art.

    • Settle

      Briana, thankful for your love of drawing and painting. Hoping for continued practice and peace through the process.

  • Bev Murrill

    Our art and our pain – not in competition but creating stability. What a thought – especially for we who look at what we’ve painted, written, built and know that it falls short of what it represents. I suppose like the glory of the sun will pale when the One who spoke it into being appears.

    I like how you’ve put this; it helps me to understand how and why and … what it is the God is doing with me when I use my creativity to express something that He’s put on my heart. thanks Settle.

    • Settle

      Yes, Bev, it always seems to fall short. I love you image of the glory of the sun paling when faced with the One who created it. Thank you for this.

  • I am in that moment of pain right now. Thank you for this. Someone has tried to take my art, my creativity, my joy, my gift from me. But they can’t. Jesus will lead me to a new way or a new avenue for expressing them and in the meantime, “In a world that groans of brokenness and screams of injustice, it matters that we hold our creative candles right up next to the pain.”

    • Settle

      I pray for new avenues and doors to be opened. I pray that your pain can channel through your art to bring about something beautiful.

  • “When God feels distant and on the sidelines, I step into the arena of writing and find Him waiting.”

    Yes. These words resonate deeply with me. I think that if we can find God in the midst of creativity, perhaps His light, shining on us, will light the little candles that we hold.

    I’ll be living with this for a while, thank you, Settle!

    • Settle

      I love the idea of His light shining on us and lighting the candles. Thank you for that Cara.

  • yes, just yes. thank you settle. x

    • Settle

      Thank you, Adriel.

  • Oh, yes, it matters! I try very hard to live this way, in this squishy space where beauty lives. It is not always painful, but it is vulnerable, and that makes us open and available to feel each other’s pain. Thank you for the message!

  • “But time and time again, I come crawling back, back to the writing, back to the reading, back to the holy ache of art. And this leaves me wondering if maybe, just maybe, it is not quite so small.”

    The holy ache of art….
    Maybe it isn’t so small…

    I needed to mull over these words today, Settle!

    Thank you, you gorgeous writer, you!

    • Settle

      Oh thank you Tina.

  • Settle, I so understand this grief and this writing, and this wild place where we find God in the midst. We find Him under our fingertips, and with strung together words, as you say. My grief is different, but it’s deep too, and it involves my little girl. “it matters that we hold our creative candles right up next to the pain.” Thank you for writing this, for being brave with your creativity.

    • Settle

      Michaela, I love that phrase, “this wild place where we find God in the midst.” Beautiful. Thank you.