This piece is a self portrait, a lesson, and an experience. When inspiration struck it was met with tremendous apprehension. This is a profoundly intimate image, not in a sexual way, but an honest one. I had no intention of sharing this image with anyone save those closest to me due to the intimate nature of it and it being so outside what is traditionally acceptable as a Godly image. It would be some time later that I would gather an understanding of its meaning. Which I hope to share and convey to you.
Oftentimes when inspired with a new piece of artwork, the meaning is not immediately clear. Meaning is derived while working thru the piece. Each new step in its creation teaches a new aspect of what message is being conveyed. Seldom do I do self portraits, most if not all of these inspired pieces are for someone specific and are given away at God’s direction.
When inspiration came, I was seeking to understand why God had given this talent and more so, what was I supposed to do with it? The framework for what ‘Prophetic Art’ is supposed to be and what it looks like is now well established within the traditional Church culture. I was frustrated and likely a little angry as nothing I have created or was creating would fit that mold.
As a result of trying to fit the mold, inspiration became stilted and I stopped working on anything. I began praying and asking God, “Why isn’t this working?” I wanted to understand why I couldn’t use this gift in the way I was seeing others ‘successfully’ use theirs. The question I was really asking was who am I? Why don’t I fit? What is my identity? What was my voice? Why couldn’t my voice be heard?
God’s answer, was this image. A snapshot of who I was at that moment. The canvases and their potential all empty because I was unwilling to do the work. The tools in my hand speak of the ability to do the work God had given me. The paint brushes and pencils in my other hand speak of the talent and gifting God had given me. The paint running down my body and onto the floor speak of all of the potential being wasted.
My motivation was that I wanted to ‘do prophetic art right’. Who defines what right is? Think about how many voices there are speaking into your life right now. Your Family, Friends, Culture, Community, Career, Church, Pastor, Teacher, Television, Social Media, this list is endless…… All of these people have an opinion of how you should live your life, do they not? And yet, you are the one living your life. It is not possible for any of these people to live your life for you. It is not possible for any of these people to see things from your perspective. My husband and I often joke that we know each other so well, and yet we can be loudly disagreeing about something only to discover at the end of the conversation that we were saying the same thing. He’s only capable of looking at the issue thru the lense of his perspective. The same is true for me.
Who am I? If we are honest with ourselves, there is no more frightening question one can be asked than that. Indeed, we spend our entire lives trying to discover the answer. We expend tremendous amounts of energy, effort, and expense attempting to ‘find’ ourselves.
Let’s define the term, Identity.
English (noun): the fact of being who or what a person or thing is. A close similarity or affinity.
I don’t know ’bout ya’ll, but I am more than a ‘thing’. This definition is so cold and one dimensional. And yet, it is a very apt description of how most of us go thru life. The last half of that definition is where we can get trapped living our lives thru the acceptance of others. This is also where we spend time crafting our identity, or who we ‘think’ we are. We put on layer after layer to hide who we are for the purpose of being accepted.
Let’s redefine the term Identity biblically. I’m not going to quote a bunch of scriptures at you. All I am going to do is define the word identity thru the language of the Bible, which is Hebrew. What I found surprised me, as there is no Hebrew word for identity. The closest word and definition is as follows.
Hebrew (verb) Ur: naked, bare, to be exposed or bare, be made naked.
Some time ago, God confronted me with this idea. Why do you fight your nature? Do you believe it to be displeasing to God or to people? How many aspects of ourselves do we ‘bury’ or ‘hide’ because we think those things are displeasing to God? How many things do we try and change about ourselves to please people? We tie ourselves in knots trying to please God and man, even when God is not asking us to. Many times out of a desire to be accepted by men. Think about it, who told you that you were naked? We hide our nakedness… Just like Adam and Eve, we try to cover up what makes us who we are, obscuring our God given purpose all to blend in and be accepted.
The lesson for me was to accept what gifts, talents, & abilities God had given me and to use them. My unique artistic voice is and never will come out of someone else. Because He didn’t give it to anyone else, He gave it to me. Think about what gifts, talents, & abilities God has given you. What makes you who you are cannot be purchased, it cannot be transferred, and it cannot be ‘put on’.
In real terms, what does this mean? I am in no way suggesting that we should all shed our clothes and walk around in the buff. Practically speaking, being naked all the time would be dangerous for a whole host of reasons, chief among them it would make us incredibly vulnerable.
Let’s define Vulnerable
English(adjective): susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm. Open to moral attack, criticism, temptation.
The definition suggests that I don’t have to walk around naked to be every bit as vulnerable. Our culture, our community, our churches even our society at large views vulnerability as weakness. The definition above is what we fear most in life.
Let’s redefine vulnerable biblically. Again, the biblical Hebrew does not have a word for vulnerable, the closest is as follows.
Erom (adjective): naked, nakedness
Being who I really am, means being vulnerable, means being ‘naked’. It means being vulnerable to others opinions of me, it means being vulnerable to criticism and attack. Why would anyone be willing to expose themselves like this??? The answer is love.
I direct your attention to I Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
It is not possible to truly love without being completely vulnerable, without exposing myself and who I really am.
It was for the sake of love, that I gave this drawing away. Nearly 3 years after the image was created, God asked me to give it away. This self portrait that was too intimate to show anyone, that exposed me for who I am, and made me more vulnerable than I have ever been. Who am I? I am naked, vulnerable. This is my purest self, exposed.