The late Hans Rookmaker, friend and mentor to Francis Schaeffer and many others, said a lot of insightful things. Among them are his four steps to producing Christian art, which I just rediscovered. Perhaps they have been said elsewhere, but I like his summary, simple and yet profound. And yet, as I say below, perhaps they need some amendment:
- Weep. Look around you; see your world. Look within you; know yourself. Look up to God; learn his expectations. Them let him break your heart.
- Pray. Never rush into publication. Take time to pray each project into being.
- Think. Do not depend entirely on the tuggings at your heartstrings brought on by weeping. Think your subject through. Research it thoroughly. Produce mature, intellectually sound and honest work.
- Work. Be prepared to do plenty of this, but never without the other three steps.
(Hans Rookmaker, in Art Needs No Justification)
I like the emphasis here on empathetic knowing, and yet not only looking and listening deeply to the world but on looking to God for insight. In fact, I look at the weeping part (which need not, of course, be actual weeping) as part of prayer, listening to God in circumstances and events and people that surround us, seeing the world with his eyes and heart. "Jesus wept." Shortest verse in the a New Testament, and yet so profound. And so we weep too.
And yet left out here is that our weeping can also be tears of joy and laughter, because the world is just as profoundly comedic as it is tragic. Occasionally it's the laugh out loud kind of comedy, but mostly the inward smile when we see grace at work -- like Sara laughing at the thought that she the wrinkled up old woman might have a son, or the very idea that Moses would be called to go to Pharaoh when speaking was the last thing he felt good at. God shames the wise with the foolish, and so there's hope for me too. After all, He speaks through asses.
One day, when there's no more weeping, there will still be laughing. We'll laugh all day about grace, about the comedy that we, of all people, should find ourselves in a new heaven and new earth. I can't believe we'll forget our past lives on the old earth, as they'll be stories to tell about who we were and who we have become, all day saying to one another "did you hear the one about so and so? He's here. Imagine that." From that vantage point, it'll be funny, not sad.
Weep. Laugh. Pray. Think. Write. And don't forget to laugh.