Gaining the Right Perspective in Creating – ft. C.S. Lewis

Recently I’ve been re-reading The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, and like pretty much every other book of his that I’ve read, I learn something new every time I read it. But for a relatively theological book, I never expected it would have something relevant to the poetry, story, music, and art loving part of me.

C.S. Lewis definitely has a knack for surprising people.

(For those of you who have not read this yet, what on earth are you doing here? Go get it. Go read it. Go embark on the bus ride of your life.

A bus ride through Heaven and Hell.

*cue dramatic music*)

The Great Divorce Book | The Voyaging Storyteller

The scene that had captured my attention was a conversation between two people, a Ghost who used to be an artist and a Spirit, in what is basically the front hall of Heaven. The ghost is gazing around at the beautiful landscape, and this is the conversation that follows.

“I should like to paint this.”

“I shouldn’t bother about that just at present if I were you.”

“Look here; isn’t one going to be allowed to go on painting?”

“Looking comes first.”

“But I’ve had my look….I wish I’d thought of bringing my things with me!”

The Spirit shook his head, scattering light from his hair as he did so. “That sort of thing’s no good here,” he said.

“What do you mean?” said the Ghost.

“When you painted on earth – at least in your earlier days – it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too. But here you are having the thing itself. It is from here that the messages came. There is no good telling us about this country, for we see it already. In fact we see it better than you do.”

The Great Divorce, Chapter 9 (emphasis mine)

That, right there, is the essence to creating. Artists catch glimpses of heaven, be it in landscapes, in people, in animals, or just plain feelings, and they weave those glimpses into something tangible so that others can see them as well. They create paintings, compose and play music, write stories and poetry, to share the pure beauty of God’s glory with others.

Well, reading that, I felt incredibly honored and grateful for being gifted with those glimpses, and even more grateful for the ability to translate them into paint and music and stories.

But then, a bit further on, the Spirit said something that made my blood run cold.

“If you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.”

“But that’s just how a real artist is interested in the country.”

“No. You’re forgetting,” said the Spirit. “That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”

“Oh, that’s ages ago,” said the Ghost. “One grows out of that…one becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake.”

“One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at becoming interested in paint, you know. They sink lower – become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.”

The Great Divorce, Chapter 9 (emphasis mine)

This was written seventy five years ago, but I felt like it was directed right at me. Even being an extremely young artist, there are times when I’ve caught myself loving the telling instead of the things I tell. Moments when I sit down to write a story just for the sake of writing. Moments when I try to compose music for the sole purpose of smashing together notes.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with loving the telling, loving the art of smacking words and phrases together, or blending paints and seeing what happens, or whatever it is. God made me like those things.

What’s wrong is when that’s the only thing I see, when I’m interested in a person because I want to draw them, or write a story about them, and not because I see the glory of God in them.

You could take this even further. I could travel to the ends of the universe telling people about God, while getting so wrapped up in the telling that I lose interest in Him. And just the thought of that gives me shivers.

I took what that Spirit said as a warning, and if you’re a fellow artist, I hope you do the same. I’m still incredibly young, I still have that Love of the Light (for the most part) and with God’s grace, I want to keep it that way.

To make the Light shine through every little thing I create.


9 thoughts on “Gaining the Right Perspective in Creating – ft. C.S. Lewis

  1. Wonderful post!! I’ve read a lot of C.S. Lewis’s books; he is one of my favorite authors! ❤ I've never heard of this particular book before, but I will definitely have to check it out! 😉

    ~Esther

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, amazing perspectives and something for me to chew on now. This is one of the books by C.S. Lewis that is on my to be read list, but that I haven’t gotten to yet.
    I’m so glad you wrote this post. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Elisha! Such an important thing to remember. I know for myself it’s very easy to get so wrapped up in the doing that I forget WHY and for whom I’m doing it. This is a good thing to ponder. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  4. wow! I just discovered a whole new perspective of my dear God daughter, Elisha. I knew you were very talented and God gifted you immensely but I did not know to what variety and extent. Thank you so much for sharing you with me. May our Sweet Jesus continue to give you all you need to glorify Him in His rich blessings on you all the days of your life. Love & Prayers,mimi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Mimi! It’s very encouraging to hear that. ❤ And I really appreciate your prayers and blessings. They're so powerful, especially coming from someone as close to God and so far on your journey with Him as you. 🙂

      Like

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