Confessing My Creative Sins, Pt. 2


Last week, my lovelies, I started telling you the story about how I forgot my creative purpose. When I first pondered relating this tale, I thought I would approach it in logical, yea even chronological fashion.

Alas and alack and forsooth, I’ve discovered that I just can’t do it. Too many threads of my personal history are too tightly interwoven with each other, and there’s nary a way I can untangle them all so that they make chronological sense.

In Part 1 of my Confessions, I talked about giving everyone in my life permission to determine what I did with my creativity. I gave it to everyone except myself. In Pt. 1, I described to you some of my thought patterns back then…

…and now, I must needs pick up a different thread and follow that into the creative tangle.

And that thread, my darlings, is the religious one.

Zounds and gadzooks, this one is gonna hurt.

Tangles and Tarnation

I won’t spend time delineating the particulars of the faith I was raised in. Suffice it to say I grew up surrounded by religious folk who were conservative, tradition-minded, and focused on Doing The Right Thing. As an adult, I’ve come to realize that within the confines of the United States, the denomination I was raised in is considered pretty rigid.

In Germany, however, flexibility was vital. The church my parents and I attended was composed mainly of American military servicemembers and their families. Because of military rotation, the congregation had a new face every few years. People came and went — people who hailed from various stateside cultures and religious backgrounds. If the church was to survive as a group, everybody had to swallow their pride in certain traditions. Some rituals and patterns of thought remained the same; but nobody had the luxury of resting on the easy laurels of dogma.

On top of that, I was blessed with parents who demanded I think and speak for myself. I asked questions, requested honesty, and made a beloved nuisance of myself to the church leadership. (Fortunately, the leadership changed every few years, so I didn’t develop a reputation.) *grin*

But in spite of all this freedom of religious thought, I still managed to tangle up a few things. I heard a lot of preaching and teaching about self-sacrifice and about putting others’ needs ahead of my own. Both fantastic principles — when understood and applied correctly.

Unfortunately, I neither understood nor applied correctly.

Over time, I developed a view of God that ate away at my soul like a ravaging disease. Somehow, I came to believe that if I didn’t do things to make God happy, he would send me to hell. And the only way I could make God happy was to sacrifice whatever I held most dear about myself.

And, of course, what I prized most about myself was my creativity.


I told myself that I loved God. I told others that I loved God. You’d be impressed with my acting skills, dear inklings: My surface faith was so convincing, it would numb your brain. I had myself convinced, that’s for sure.

But all the while, I feared that God would someday demand I pay up. I lived in terror that God would say, “You’ve put your creativity on a pedestal long enough! It’s time to give that back to me.”

I came to see myself as a type of Abraham. Abraham laid Isaac, his son, on the sacrificial altar with a knife poised to plunge into the boy’s chest.

I believed that God would require me to stretch my artist child out upon just such an altar — and rip the artist child’s living heart out.

Remember what I said in Confessions, Pt. 1 about how I bent to society’s expectations? Take what I just said about sacrifice and extrapolate:

When society insisted that I should Get A Good Job, Make Something Of Myself, and Contribute Responsibly, I thought it was God, telling me to pay up.

When individuals demanded that I write or paint only Happy Encouraging Things instead of gritty truth, I thought it was God, telling me to sacrifice.

When people I trusted told me to give up my writing time in favor of what others needed of me, I thought it was God, putting the ritual knife into my trembling, unwilling, sinful fingers.

The result?

Years of depression. Years of fear: fear of God, fear of rejection, fear for my inner artist child. I was terrified of what looked, to me, like a bleak and unbearable future. I berated myself for my secret unwillingness to sacrifice. I thought I was just weak of soul. I questioned my worth.

I all but quit writing. I had nightmares of murder and guilt. My paintings turned ever darker, and I received criticism for them. The word “demonic” was used.

I thought it was God, telling me I had no right to cause such trouble with my controversial art.


I was wrong.

That was not God.

The Creator does not work that way.

But I wouldn’t realize those Truths for a long time.

Come back Thursday. I’ll confess another thread of the story — and point us toward a happy ending.

I welcome all of your thoughts on these things.

Shared experiences?

Residual heartaches?

Current heartache?

What questions do you have for me?

8 thoughts on “Confessing My Creative Sins, Pt. 2

  1. Matt Gambill says:

    Great thoughts courtcan!

  2. When I was a young child, I used to be afraid that God would tell me I was supposed to be a missionary and give up everything and everyone I loved. Even though I hadn’t consciously connected that to my creativity, I’m sure that was the result of the fear: I couldn’t be what *I* wanted to be when I grew up.

    But around the time I was married, my husband and I started going to a new church together. The pastor spoke on destiny and desire. He talked about the verse about God giving us the desires of our heart, but not in the way that most people read it. It doesn’t mean that God gives in to what we want for ourselves, letting us choose and then following our whims. No, He places the very deepest desires (not the sinful, surface ones) that we have into our hearts, so that we have a passion in our very core to serve Him in that way. He puts them there. He is the source of our desires.

    In other words, if you have an inherent passion for creativity, it’s because God’s placed it there and wants to use it for His divine purpose. So if you give up that to become a missionary, you aren’t following God’s perfect calling for your life.

    When I heard that, I was elated. When I realized God wasn’t asking me to sacrifice who I was, the amount of freedom I felt is unexplainable. And my fear of God trying to push me to do something I didn’t want to do was quenched. I wish you were sitting next to me that day and I wish you didn’t have to go through all that heartache. But I’m so glad you discovered the truth. You have permission to be creative. Rejoice! 🙂

    • Becca, nowadays, I rejoice continually. I’m a different person than I was back then — both on the surface and on the inside. In my posts for next week, I’m going to start trying to describe the elation I feel at finally being free of those shackles. The freedom is incredible.

      I know how you feel about wanting someone you care about to have been there with you when you heard such a liberating message! I have people in my life who, I know, need that freedom as desperately as I do/did — and that’s one reason why I want to share my story. I want to find a way to put my experience into words, so that others will know that they are not alone.

      I love your understanding about “desires of the heart.” I think I heard similar thoughts long ago — I just wasn’t ready to understand them yet. First, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t as brave and as in-control as I believed, and I had to face my fear of rejection.

      Until I looked into that mirror and acknowledged the truth, I couldn’t open my eyes to a liberating reality.

  3. Allison Maass says:

    I have been there and am thankfully on the other side of the biggest, hardest and most important initial steps to recovery too.

    Isn’t life so much richer here, so much…more free?

    It feels good.

    • Allison, life is definitely more free. And more fulfilling. And because I’m tapping into the richness of this life, I’m able to give of myself more to others. And, for the first time, with soul-encompassing sincerity.

      I won’t say I’ve reached the other side of recovery yet…but I’m definitely well on my way. 🙂

  4. […] Pt. 2, I told why I let the world determine the course of my […]

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