Patronage (Part II) : Practical work & embracing the opposite of calling

Several years ago I was given the opportunity to buy a business I had worked for off and on about seven years. My initial reaction was not excitement, rather complete terror. I saw the potential to finally have a source of stable income for my life (and family to come). Yet, I also saw the potential of becoming married to an occupation that did not define my "calling" or utilize my creative gifts.
I couldn't have asked for a better situation. The owner even offered to sell it to me under the agreement that if I didn't want it after six months, he would take it back no strings attached.

I had cultivated the value in my life that I would pursue the deepest passions and dreams of my heart without compromise. I had accepted the sacrifices that meant and happily lived out of the trunk of my (given) car (and couches of generous friends). No amount of stability or income could persuade me abandon my lifelong pursuits of music and art as a way of life.

Even so, something inside of me wouldn't let it go. I reasoned, if I could make the business work for me, rather than me work for the business, perhaps it would actually fund my art rather than obstruct the path. Then fear crept in and paralyzed me with indecision. What if it did ruin my creative pursuits? I was afraid to buy it and I was afraid to let the opportunity go. I sought for wisdom, direction, angelic visitation, a floating scroll, anything to tell me what to do. Yet no such supernatural guidance seemed to emerge. Then a wise friend of mine said to me, "If you aren't hearing a direct sense of guidance, it probably means you are being trusted to make the decision you see as best." This was both frightful and liberating. In the end, I bridled my fears and bought the business.

Seven, eight years later, it has been a tremendous blessing, a continual challenge and in the end, it has matured me in ways that has only benefited the creative pursuits of my life. I have been able to travel and play music, teach, practice, study and run the administration of the band, all while having a steady source of income apart from my art. It has taken the pressure off of my art to produce more income than possible in its earlier stages of growth. Of course there were times when I thought I would explode if I didn't get away from the business, but more often than not, I have been able to support a family all the while pursuing wholeheartedly, the dreams of my heart without obstruction.

There was no wisdom nor business prowess of my own which landed me in this situation. It has been completely Providential; The loving gift of a generous and compassionate Father who sees what we cannot see, who knows what we could not possibly know, who understands that sometimes walking straight through the walls of our fears is what is required to get us to the land of our promise. He cares for what we care about. Though He often requires (or rather invites) us to do some strange things we can't always understand in the moment, or define by reason alone, they always lead us to where He and our own hearts desire us to go.

Why am I telling you all of this? What does this have to do with the Patronage system and the support of artists we discussed in the first blog? Keep trekking with me and you'll see.

There is a misconception in the minds of many artists that anything outside the scope of our immediate "calling" must be a distraction or a hindrance to the primary work we are called to create. There is also a misconception that "living by faith" frees us from engaging the practical realms of work and responsibility. In my own life, I began to figure out pretty quickly that living on credit cards was not living by faith!

My endorsement and strong belief that artists should be supported (especially Christian artists by the Church) does not imply that I believe artists and musicians should not support themselves by alternative means at least until their art can sustain their livelihood.
There are practical life lessons that will shape our art and help sustain our work that only come from mundane, even non-creative, laborious work.

My view is really a double edged sword. On the one side I am cutting through the pseudo-spiritual malaise of a complacent, self destructive life of laziness and freeloading; On the other side, I hope to awaken a renewed understanding within the Church of the importance and the value of supporting devoted artists to accomplish their works. I'll write a Part Three where I unpack why I place such a high spiritual value on creativity and why it is important for us to not only support, but to become the beacon, lighting the way for the arts.

In the meantime, if you are an artist who is serious about your work, don't be afraid to embrace the necessity of non creative work for a season. If the fire and passion in your heart burns bright enough, it will cause all things to conform to your life vision and will refuse to give in to anything less. From that stance, all things will work together for good. What doesn't kill you will make you stronger, as they say. You will learn lessons that in the end will only serve to propel your art even if it feels like death for a time.