The Greatest Showman. The buzz around this movie has been deafening. I was a bit skeptical while I heard person after person rave about it. Then…I went to see it. I admit to you, my friends, that I was bawling for most of the movie. I could not keep it together.
I realized as I processed through the possible reason behind this unexpected cry fest I was having, that almost every person that raved about this movie was a creative of some kind. An artist.
So, my question is this:
What is it about this movie that is speaking so deeply to artists?
No, I don’t think it was just the aesthetics; the music, the dancing, the costumes, etc. There is something about this narrative that is speaking to creatives (and many others) everywhere.
Last week, Ross and I spoke at a church about critical thinking and creativity in education. We shared about different learning styles and how the need for varied styles of learning is not always represented within the church: a place where we are meant to be students, disciples, learners. During the discussion time afterward, someone expressed how they constantly felt misplaced at church. He shared that he had a very hard time sitting still for the length of a sermon and often struggled to understand how to worship in that setting. We all discussed what church might look like if a Sunday morning incorporated more learning styles and expressions of creativity rather than the sit, listen, go home model that we often see.
Near the end of our time of discussion, I responded to the young man’s concern by speaking a truth that has long been close to my own heart.
Artists have long held the burden the young man spoke of. Artists have felt misplaced, misunderstood, and even mistreated in the church.
Many artists and misfits alike wonder to themselves, “How can I bring my whole self to the Sunday service?” “Will I be accepted?” “Will I be too much? Not enough?” I know I have many different groups of people reading this, and you may be saying to yourself, “Everyone at church is so loving, why would anyone feel this way?” Let me tell you one more story from last week.
I also had a man come up to me after the service we shared at and tell me how his granddaughter also likes to dance but he can’t for the life of him convince her that this is not a productive pastime. “She’ll never make any money from it. She’s smart as a whip and choosing to spend her time on dance.” We had a very nice conversation following this where I spoke my own opinion on transferable skills in dance and the arts in general, but the underlying message from him and many others, sometimes without them realizing it is this:
What you’re doing isn’t worth enough. It’s not valuable. It’s unimportant.
And we all know that if we are told this enough, the message we end up telling ourselves sooner or later becomes, “I am not worth enough. I am not valuable. I am not important.” Whether we know it or not, we’ve been telling artists this for years through our words, our implications, our actions.
But here’s the thing. What else ARE we meant for but to worship with our whole lives? And if we have gifts in dance, in painting, in music, in poetry, then aren’t we to worship with them? Not just on Sundays (although we could use more of that too!), but every day and throughout our lives. So, let’s stop constantly asking artist to justify themselves for living out the gifts they’ve been given. Let’s embrace them along with all the misfits out there with different learning styles and different creative expressions. Let’s stop telling them that they don’t belong and instead send them the message that they are VALUABLE, NEEDED, and WORTHY.
Artists out there, now is the time to COME HOME to your calling. Bring your whole self without shame to the work and to the Sunday service. It’s time to lift your heart, your spirit, and your voice to someone greater than yourself and for a purpose that is brighter than yourself too.
THIS is why this movie, The Greatest Showman, spoke so deeply to so many. It is a picture of people COMING HOME to their gifts and calling. Now, watch this clip (I’m serious, you have to see this), and try to tell me that this isn’t a glimpse, a taste of what we’re meant for; that it doesn’t wreak of worship.