Imagine it’s your 100th birthday. You’ve just spent all day celebrating with a big party, and now you’re resting quietly in your bedroom. Friends and family linger, taking care of after-party clean up.
Against the backdrop of household sounds—the clatter of silverware on china, the tinkle your great-grandchildren’s laughter, the chatter of guests—you reflect on the last century. Suddenly, you’re drawn from your reverie by the sound of your name. As you strain to listen in, you realize your friends are talking about you.
“Her life is a masterpiece,” says one.
“Yes, an absolute work of art,” says the other.
How would it feel to hear those words?
How would it feel to know that what your friends were really saying is that you made a lasting difference in the lives of those your hold most dear, as well as the world around you? That you ran your race well, that you poured yourself out for what you believe in. That you lived an authentic, love-filled life and inspired others to do the same.
Words like these would be like nectar to my soul.
But is it possible? Can our lives be works of art? Or is the idea pie in the sky, sentimental nonsense? Perhaps such lofty compliments are reversed only for a special few. Perhaps it’s expecting too much of ourselves to imagine we could create a masterpiece with our lives.
I don’t think it is too much to hope for.
In his book, The Artisan Soul, Erwin Raphael McManus asserts that everyone has the potential to become a masterpiece. He says, “Life itself is a work of art…We will never create anything more powerful or significant than our lives. We are both works of art and artists at work.”
My interpretation of what McManus means is that, on the one hand, we already are works of art, beautiful treasures fashioned by God.
But, as beings made in God’s image, we are not only created, but also creative. We have the privilege of playing a co-creative role with God in crafting our lives into the masterpieces He imagined when He breathed life into us. Without our willing participation, we cannot become all God designed us to be.
To talk about making your life a work of art, I think, is another way of talking about fulfill your meaning and purpose.
It’s about stewarding the gifts God has put in you and the relationships He has entrusted you with. It’s about living with intention and walking in communion with God.
Being a masterpiece doesn’t necessarily mean being famous or having a worldwide platform (though it may). It’s more about the quality of your life than the quantity. (Consider two masterpieces of drastically different proportions: the Mona Lisa and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Though they differ in stature, both are magnificent.)
And if you don’t consider yourself particularly artistic, don’t worry. You may not be a painter, sculptor, or woodworker, but we don’t have to be artists in the traditional sense for us to use our God-given creativity to craft a life of meaning and beauty.
Making Your Life a Work of Art
So, what does making our lives works of art look like on a practical, everyday basis? Here are some thoughts on what it means to me:
It means abiding in Christ and keeping close connection with God, whom McManus calls the “master artisan.” Only through Him can we fulfill our callings and become all He created us to be.
It means planning ahead and getting specific about what I want my life to look like. This includes journaling, researching, imagining and dreaming with God about what my life could become.
It means finding ways to incorporate my core values into my everyday life. Appreciating beauty, for example, is one of my core values. I make a point of not just noticing, but actively searching for and finding beauty around me—the imprint of leaves etched in thawing snow, the swirl of Kelly green and violet as I mix vegetables in a stir fry, the sound of wind rustling bare branches...
It means investing in my talents to bring them to their full potential.
Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.” Like great art, a great life takes dedication, perseverance, planning and the purposeful development of our natural skills and talents.
It means making time to nourish my soul. "The work of the artist begins with the care of his or her own soul,” says McManus. For me, this means doing things like taking time to snuggle my cats and connect to God before getting out of bed in the morning, reading stories that encourage and inspire me, enjoying nature, and having coffee with a good friend, to name a few.
It means understanding, embracing and expressing my most authentic self. McManus says, “If we’re not careful, we will live our lives as echoes.” I don’t want to be imitation art.
It means cutting away all that is superfluous and distracts from my callings and most important relationships. Like a sculptor cutting away stone to reveal her masterpiece, the more we cut away the excess in our lives the more we can become the most concentrated, refined, and authentic version of ourselves.
What Will You Create?
When I think about crafting my life into a work of art, and what it might look like at the end of my life, I feel excited, curious, and a little bit scared. Can I create a masterpiece? Will I? It’s a lofty goal that requires a thoughtful, purposeful and courageous approach to life. Thankfully, with God, our Master Artisan, all things are possible!
I hope that, like me, you are both challenged and encouraged to partner with God in crafting a work of art with your life!
In the words of Erwin McManus, “What life will you choose to leave behind as your masterpiece?” I’d love to hear about your masterpiece in progress in the comments below!
And if want some support on your journey of crafting a life of beauty, faith, and purpose, I’m here to help! Learn more here.
"For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
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