What does it mean to be an artist? It is a question I have mulled over for quite some time now. There are days where I know exactly what that means, but more often than not I find myself wondering if I even fit the bill. Add to that questions of what it means to be a Christian artist and a woman in a patriarchal society and you have all the ingredients for quite the identity crisis.
Or so I thought three years ago when I made the decision that changed everything. At the time I was a recently unemployed aspiring writer with the worst case of writers block ever, who sought to find her place in the world as an artist and lover of art, Christian, woman, academic, and all around overachiever. That “place” was summed up in three words: worship, theology, and art, a program offered by Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
I am writing to you now three years later, having graduated a week ago from that very program. It is an experience that I cherish very deeply, as it has provided space for me to be all that I am, but also because it introduced me to the Doing Good Well program.
I was introduced to the DGW program though a professor who recommended me, and after looking into it I realized that this program confirms who I feel God is calling me to be: an artist, a Christian, a woman, an academic and yes even an overachiever. Though engaging creatively, understanding aspects of leadership and spiritual formation, this program will offer further guidance and space for me to be all of those things.
The fact that I am able to explore this with other women like me is something I am very grateful for. It is through this program that I hope to take another step towards becoming an advocate for understanding the mind, philosophy and theology of an artist and how the creative mind and imagination is so critical to forming Christian communities.
Three poems by Tamisha Tyler:
Who is God?
At age 5,
He is the best answer
For Sunday school questions.
At age 8,
He is the person you give your life to
(Although the lady called him Jesus)
At age 13,
He is the only one
Who will listen to what you have to say
At age 16,
He is the last word
You use when cursing
And the first name
You call on when you’re about to get in trouble
At age 18,
He is the voice that consoles a broken heart
At age 20,
He is the grace that gives you room
To forgive yourself
From 22 to 25
He becomes the reason for your hatred
The basis on which you claim your judgment
And the source of your pride
But at 26,
You realize he was none of those things
And you wonder if you ever really knew him at all
You set out on a journey to find him
Like a child obsessed with capturing their parents’ shadow
And at 30,
You realize that the sun is East
The day is new
And he was right beside you all along
And his shadow; constantly propelling you forward into newness
He is the mystery of your life simply because he is the only thing that makes sense
He is your foundation
Whether recently rediscovered or newly found I cannot say
But he is the only support strong enough
For your ambitiously ignorant, insight-fully blinded steps that you carelessly choose to take
And although there will be many things that you will call him
In the many years that you continue to discover
And always will be
From a crazy city girl to a mad farmer
I know nothing of trees.
Of tending the land
Or of the feel of soil between my fingers.
But if you teach me how to plant,
Maybe I too will learn to grow.
I know nothing of stillness.
Of taking unconditional breaths of unconditioned air,
Or the sounds of rivers rushing.
But if you teach me silence
Maybe I can make some sense of the noise.
I know too much of violence.
Am all too familiar with what it means to defend ones own.
But if you teach me what I am fighting for,
Maybe I can put down the sword.
If you remind me of the paths beneath these roads or the land beyond these buildings
Maybe I can re-imagine what abundance really looks like.
So never stop telling the stories of the land
Or inviting others into that beautiful silence
Because if you teach them life
Maybe they too can practice resurrection.
Let me walk with you
Let down your hair and tell me your story
You are welcome here
Let us dine together at the table where blessings flow
Sameness and difference
Sameness and difference
It is the grace that I will never understand
Let us dive deep into it together
Let us learn from its mysteries
There are things about you that I will never fully know
Let us sit in the grey together,
Let us wait on God
I cannot promise you I will be perfect
I can only promise that I will be here