Intersection of Beauty and Truth

I have been thinking a lot about art lately. More specifically, about beauty and truth, and where the two intersect. Mostly within my own creative work. Writing poetry is my main expressive outlet. I always say the first draft is for me, and the revisions are in case someone ever reads it. But as I’ve gotten older, that motto has felt more and more necessary. 

When I write a poem, they usually stew for a while and come out onto the page in one impulse. I am not gate keeping my feelings, I am not censoring my thoughts. Oftentimes, the “belief” of the moment is drawn out of an emotion/experience I’ve been wrestling with, especially when it comes to my poetry about my faith. I’ve written several poems lately that capture difficult feelings of doubt, depression, loneliness…you get the gist. Usually after reading these poems back, I ache because they feel true. And in that sense, they are true. I wrote a poem about wrestling with faith, using imagery from the story of God parting the Red Sea. The experience of the poem was true, but when I took a step back after my first draft, I realized that what it said about God was not true.

I had left the poem on an unresolved note that made it seem like God had abandoned me. I chose to revise it for two reasons (aside from my normal desire to revise).

1) God is not a god who abandons His children, and 2) revising the poem to make it truer was an important step in letting the poem help me heal. So, instead of leaving the narrator of my poem helplessly facing an impassable sea, I chose to end the poem with the imagery of Moses’s staff moving, alluding to the hopeful ending that particular story has. Now, when I read the poem, I am encouraged by it. I can see in its imagery the struggle I had, can remember how it felt to pour the words out of a raw heart onto the page. But there is also the hope. Because I wrestled with whether the beautiful thing I’d created was also true, God was able to remind me of his kindness, allowing me to use my creative expression in a kind of spiritual exercise.

So then I asked myself, as a Christian poet, where does beauty intersect with truth? Does it matter if my art is also true? I think it does. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in that sense, truth might only beautiful to those who believe it. An atheist might not find the idea of heaven and angels beautiful, but they might see the way someone is compelled by their faith and remark about the beautiful simplicity in their tears of joy. I think for a Christian, the most beautiful art is art that is true.

I think this is a freeing notion. I think it frees us to enjoy art that isn’t Christian, finding the beauty in the experience of others, in the beauty of the human existence. I think sometimes Christians are a little legalistic about what art they consume. The creativity of humanity is God-given. I rejoice at the opportunity to experience art that reflects the beauty of creation. And if the experience of the artist is true, then we are free to create. We are free to express ourselves, and in that expression, to seek the truth, allowing God to be glorified. This might apply mostly to poets, since I am largely speaking out of my experience as a poet. I do think I have a responsibility to make sure my poetry is true before sending it out into the world. And if a poem remains in a hopeless place, I personally like to share it with an explanation. I hope that my work can always point people to the merciful, loving God of the bible. Most importantly, I hope that as I create, that it is all for the glory of the One who created me, and that He can use it to teach me more about Him.

What do you think? Has God ever used your creativity to reveal His character?


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