A long time ago I read a blog post by singer/songwriter Andy Gullahorn where he answered the question, “How do you make it as an artist?” Though it’s been years since I read this web 1.0 style post, the gist of his answer was really memorable. He basically said that there isn’t a formula or way, you just have to find your way. He and his wife Jill Phillips have gone on to have a successful yet atypical independent music career, and it has been really cool and encouraging to observe them continuing to find their way since then. The journey towards becoming a vocational artist is really like that. You don’t have a clear path, and you don’t know where you will end up. It reminds me of the story of Abraham’s call in the Old Testament where he followed God even though he did not know where he was going. Abraham’s story was so notable that it made the Faith Hall of Fame so to speak in the New Testament book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 11:8 NIV
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
Here’s an excerpt of the original story…
Genesis 12:1-8 NIV
The Call of Abram
12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.[a]
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”[b]
This story at first glance may seem kinda normal by our standards. Kids grow up and leave their hometown all the time, but this story comes from ancient times, around 1800 BC. Leaving the area of your tribe took great courage because it was very dangerous, and to top it off, there was no destination given in this call. The call was to go and the place was to be shown, but only after the going part.
Finding Ourselves in Abraham’s God Story
Now some people might say that it’s bad to read ourselves into these stories. In some ways I agree. You and I aren’t Abraham, and God had a specific purpose for Abraham. His story has by God’s will and design echoed through a 1000 generations. He was chosen to be the father of faith as a part of God’s greater narrative. However, there is a principle in this story that I believe applies to all of God’s children by faith. If we encounter God and we discern a strong calling in our hearts we must follow it. Our obedience in following should happen even if God doesn’t reveal the end game. In fact, I’m pretty certain that He purposely chooses not to reveal the how or end goal of our calling or callings. He gives only a direction or a step. I guess that’s part of the essence of faith and trust. Whenever we feel a leading we want to know the how, and we want to know for certain that it will pay off in the end. I love this quote from John Eldridge’s book Dare to Desire, “If you had permission to do what you really want to do, what would you do? Don’t ask how – that will cut your desire off at the knees. How is never the right question. How is a faithless question; it means ‘unless I can see my way clearly I won’t venture forth.'”
If you follow Abraham’s journey with God further you will see that the story is not all about prosperity and fruitful loins. It was a life full of struggle, fear, doubt, and mistakes. Abraham may have been the father of faith, but he was not a perfect example of faith. We see his limitations frequently in the story-most notably when he allows on two different occasions two different rulers to believe Sarah was his sister and allow them to take her in to be into their harems. A plot he devised to spare their lives. (Fortunately it appears that God protected Sarah from being touched in these circumstances). Abraham’s journey is a really crazy story with twists and turns. God didn’t make Abraham’s life easier after he accepted the call, it actually became harder. In the end we find that this is a story of God’s faithfulness to Abraham and not the other way around. We need to remember God’s faithfulness to us when we find ourselves stumbling backwards or forwards as well.
I Double Dog Dare Ya
I have no idea where you are at in life. You could be a stay at home mom, or in debt and feel tied to a job because of it, or you might feel like you are getting too old to move out in a certain direction (Abraham was 75 BTW). Maybe you feel a deep call to step out or step further out as an artist and go to a land that you do not know both figuratively or literally. Maybe your parents, friends, or siblings won’t understand it. Maybe they fear you’ll be destined to live a tortured life in artistic squalor. Maybe you feel the same way. But if you truly feel that God is leading you down this path and that it is not the substance of childhood fantasy, then you should go. With each step God will grace you to see a little more of the picture.
For a deeper look at Abraham’s journey, you can find it in Genesis 12 – 24. Tim Keller has an amazing series on Abraham online. Well worth skipping TV and listening to it! Real Security and the Call of God. Andy Gullahorn just released his latest CD Fault Lines yesterday. Good fuel for the journey peeps!
If you’d like to express your thoughts about this article, please feel free to share your perspective or ask questions!