Examine Your Life Carefully . . . through Art

By Mark D. Roberts

September 16, 2019

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16

If we’re going to live wisely and fruitfully, we need to examine carefully how we live. That’s the counsel of Ephesians 5:15. And that’s what we’ve been considering in the last few Life for Leaders devotions.

man painting a wallI want to stay with this topic a little longer because I believe it’s crucial for us—especially because so many of us live busy, full lives that allow little time for careful examination of anything. Our daily routines are so rushed, so filled with activities and information, so weighed down by multitasking that we often don’t pay attention to how we’re living, at least not until something traumatic happens to us.

Today, I’d like to suggest another way to be encouraged in the life-examination process. I’m talking about art. I believe that art in its various forms can help us pay closer attention to how we’re living. Of course art serves many other purposes than this—ranging from self-expression to inspiring joy, social critique, and much more. But art can also help us see how we’re living from a fresh perspective.

Friends of mine are often inspired to think clearly and creatively about their lives by poetry. For example, several have been especially touched by the artistry of Christian Wiman, an American poet who currently teaches at Yale University. Wiman’s poetry explores the deeper meaning of life and faith in words both simple and profound. For example, the first stanza of  Wiman’s “Every Riven Thing” reads,

+++“God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
+++sing his being simply by being
+++the thing it is:
+++stone and tree and sky,
+++man who sees and sings and wonders why.”
+++(From Hammer is the Prayer, p. 98)

Others are moved by visual art, by film, or by music. I find myself particularly inspired by novels. I think, for example, of Victor Hugo’s novel, Les Misérables, which has been made popular through musical and film versions. Every time I have read the book or seen a dramatized version of Les Misérables, I see myself from a different perspective. For example, I see the ways I can be like Javert: driven, inflexible, judgmental. I am profoundly inspired by the Bishop, who plays a relatively small role in the musical and film versions of the story, but figures much more prominently in the novel. The Bishop is a man of deep generosity and self-sacrifice, one whose life matches the gospel he preaches. In light of the Bishop, I see how often I live for my own advantage, rather than for the sake of others. I am drawn to live more graciously, more freely.

I expect you can think of ways art has helped you see yourself more clearly and live more intentionally. You might have been inspired by a song or moved by a painting. Perhaps your life has been shaped by a photograph or a play. No matter the specific kind of art, I believe it can be a gift from God that invites us to see ourselves, our neighbors, our world, and our God more clearly.

Something to Think About:

Can you think of a time when art of some kind has shown you yourself in a new light? If so, when was this and what happened?

Was this something God used for your growth?

What kinds of art do you respond to most readily?

Something to Do:

If you can remember a work of art that has touched your heart in the past, and if you are able, have a fresh encounter with that work of art sometime this week. Listen to the song. Or watch the movie. Or read the poem. Or gaze upon the painting. Or . . . .


Gracious God, thank you for all of your good gifts. Today I am especially thankful for the gift of art, for music and poetry, for film and drama, for pottery and architecture, for photography and paintings, and for all the artistic expressions that enrich our world. Thank you, Lord, for creating us so that we might appreciate art. Thank you for all of the artists who have made our lives more beautiful, more meaningful, more delectable.

Thank you also, Lord, for the way art helps us see ourselves more clearly. By your grace, may I allow art to touch and shape my soul as you speak to me. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart ready to receive your wisdom. Amen.

Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Creating Beauty at Work Is Everyone’s Job

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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