[A]s an artist, what can you learn from soldiers, athletes, farmers and craftsmen? If you look closely, artists can have a lot to learn from yes–soldiers, athletes, farmers and craftsmen. I know these are four diverse occupations, but there is one artful theme woven into each one. The beauty here is that it’s not rocket science. It’s doable and completely achievable for you, the artist. And there’s simply no substitute for it. Read on…
I know many hardworking artists. Some are very successful. Others are not. But they still work hard, taking pride in their work and a daily determination to show up to do the work. Financially successful or not, they are hardworking artists.
I also know a lot of people who “like the idea” of being an artist. They talk a good game, but don’t have much to show.
If you are serious about your craft, there is one crucial trait that can cover a multitude of mistakes.
Are you ready?
For any soldier preparing himself for battle, an athlete training for her race, a farmer cultivating his fields, and a craftsman excelling in his craft, there simply are no trade offs for the discipline of hard work. If we, as artists, want new inspiration and the opportunity to inspire others with what we create, we can learn a lot from the lives of soldiers, athletes, farmers and craftsmen. My inspiration to work hard at my craft comes from one of my favorite Bible passages in 2 Timothy 2:3-7, 15.
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this….Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
Have you ever seen a war movie where some grunt in boot camp ticks off his drill sergeant? It’s not a pretty sight. In this passage, Paul makes it clear that suffering will be a part of the Christian life. Suffering will be part of the process of becoming more like Christ. It is not suffering for suffering sake. In God’s domain, suffering is always redemptive, though we may not see it during periods of suffering.
When a soldier chooses to enter the military, he will suffer under the new regimen and discipline, but it is not suffering without a purpose: He is worked hard and he works hard to help him and his buddies stay alive in battle. This is the goal of any commanding officer. To make sure his troop are trained, disciplined, and prepared to handle the chaos of war.
Like a soldier, an artist who wants to please God will work hard, not to win his approval, but in gratitude of the gifts they have been given. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to bury my creative talents. I want to see them multiplied like Jesus’ Parable of the Talents.
How many hours of Olympic television did you watch? Who isn’t amazed by the thousands of hours of training, strict diets, and focused discipline of Olympic athletes? No one needs to teach Olympians how to work hard. They are focused on one thing: The Gold. But in every Olympics, there are always a few athletes who think they’re above the rules. So they take shortcuts. Bend the rules. As soon as they’re found out, their medals are passed on to those athletes who competed according to the rules.
There are no shortcuts to becoming an excellent artist. You will fail. You will fall short. But you don’t stop. You keep running.
I may be a novice farmer, but I’m a farmer. You may not know, but I oversee a 12 acre avocado and organic lemon grove owned by The Grove Center for the Arts & Media, the non-profit ministry I founded nine years ago. All of the proceeds from The Grove go to support our ministry to artists here in Southern California.
It will come as no surprise when I say farming is hard work! I jokingly tell my wife that I train for triathlons so I can work at the grove. There are always more weeds to whack. More lemon trees to prune. More avocados to pick. Watering. Fertilizing. Paying $4,000 water bills. Just last August, it took over a month to find workers to pick our lemons. Then we lost tons of unpicked lemons that fell to the ground during a heat wave. The work, the hard work, never ends.
The benefit? Our board and volunteers experience the joy of investing in the spiritual growth and creative work of artists.
In the verse above, Paul is mentoring and ministering to the younger Timothy. Paul encourages him, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
When I think of “worker,” I think of a craftsman. An expert in his or her field who knows the tools of his trade and knows how to use them with excellence. Have you ever had a worker do a lousy job on a home improvement project? For what was supposed to beautify your home, you received a crooked staircase or a tile floor filled with scratches or over-spray from a paint gun? Paul is encouraging Timothy to excel in his knowledge of God’s truth and the calling he has received from God.
As artists, what can we learn from soldiers, athletes, farmers, and craftsmen?
Hard work. Discipline. Cultivation. Excelling in our craft.
Can you hear Paul’s words to you and I?
Do your best. Your absolute very best.
Questions: Who do you relate to the most: A soldier? Athlete? Farmer? Craftsman? How does these verses speak to you as an artist?
I’d love your thoughts and comments.