Monday, September 20, 2004
I've been reading the Old Testament. I've gotten as far as 2 Kings. Basically, the books of Kings are the record of Israel getting farther and farther away from God. They have the history of being God's people, but they still turned, aided by their kings, to the local gods of the countries they partially conquered. The real God of the Universe kept trying to get their attention, but most of the kings followed the practices of their predecessors. It's very depressing, especially when you compare this history to today.
So, there I am on the beach, and I begin to feel twitchy. Usually this process runs on autopilot: carry sand, carry water, filter and tamp the sand, repeat until the form is full. It doesn't require much supervision so I think about the sculpture I'm going to make, or other things.
In this case, the "other things" turned in the direction of idol worship. You see, sand sculpture saved my life. From the end of 1994 through August of 2003, my main purpose for living was creativity, and sand sculpture and its associated processes--designing and making tools, building sculpture models in my mind--were my main outlet for creativity. I looked at my equipment this time, with the form half full, and realized I was sort of stuck in the middle.
I expected sand sculpture to disappear from my life once God got ahold of me again. I did a few in the early Mosaic period, last fall, but felt as if I was sneaking each one past God. So many people at Mosaic supported my art that I had to reconsider this, and finally for the New Year Day sculpture I started asking God about this. He indicated that sand sculpture was a good thing; as many Mosaic folks had told me, He gave me the ability to do it.
Some friends of mine and I visited a church on Sunday. None of us had been there before and we won't be going back. To me it seemed as if the preacher was on autopilot; the message had a sort of practiced roughness. The whole outfit seemed to be going through the motions. Where was God? There was too much noise to hear him.
When I realized God was serious about wanting to change my life, I expected Him to turn me into a missionary or something. This is what Christians do, right? What actually happened has been a carefully planned program of reconstruction, as Erwin says, "from the inside out." The major direction this process has taken in recent months has been to get me off the autopilot. Consider what I'm doing and be aware.
I got to thinking. How does this sculpture differ from any of its pre-Mosaic predecessors? God wouldn't let me alone on this issue. Idolatry or art? With the Holy Spirit's help I began to understand.
The first part of the problem was the rush to get out the door. I usually wake up and do some informal praying. "Good morning, Lord." But I just beat feet to the beach.
Another problem was that, with a growing confidence that I'm not going to be thrown out of God's way if I quit thinking about it for a minute or two, I spent some time thinking about design. I've learned to write with God, and have invited Him to join me in sand sculptures before, but simply forgot this time.
It was strangely difficult for me to approach this subject. Part of this problem is that I have a hard time asking for anything important because that lets people know what can be taken away to cause hurt. And I don't like feeling like a beggar, especially with something I know so well.
I know sand sculpture. I invented the technology I use, the designs are mine. I make the tools, the forms and other equipment. I do the sand sampling and research, the failure analysis and improvement that are part of the engineering. I don't need God's help for this.
Idolatry. Autopilot. I need God to make my life worth living. Sand sculpture is much to weak to hold up a whole life, especially the kind of detailed, conscious life God has in mind. Eventually I was led to realizing that God isn't opposed to sand sculpture. He really did make me able to do all the various required processes. What He does oppose is the unconscious application of a bunch of rules, and my unconscious dependence upon using those rules.
God wants me to be aware, awake, and alive. Responsive.
It takes two hours to make a packed block of sand. By the time I was finished with that I was a lot more awake than I'd been at the start of the day, and the sculpture turned out to be very good. God doesn't get involved with the design directly, but He does make me a better thinker. Better able to keep track of the various elements of the design and fit them into the whole piece.
As we sat in that noisy church, mildly post-sculptural, I asked God to help these people see their way out of the automatic responses they were making on the preacher's cues. When many of them responded to the altar call I prayed that God would reveal His wonderfully detailed reality to them, that they'd see beyond the noise and flashy lights to God's idea of life.