Matt Appling is a former child artist turned art teacher, pastor and writer. His work is helping children and adults in creative and spiritual pursuits.
His first book, Life After Art, was released by Moody Publishers April 2013 and explores the intersection of life, faith, and becoming the people God made us to be. Matt can be found every week at his blog.
Can I confess something?
I struggle with contentment. That one word is the probably the most elusive in my life. Everyone has something that constantly evades and escapes them in their life. Contentment is mine.
It isn’t that I’m not thankful. No, this is a struggle that makes me wonder if I’m doing enough, if God is happy with me, if my life means something. It makes my brain click on in the middle of the night and says, “Wake up, Matt! You’re a failure!” No joke. My brain thinks 3 am is the best time to dissect all of my life decisions.
It isn’t that I’m not content with my life or my family.
I struggle to be content with myself.
And the more I confess it, the more I discover that I’m not alone. I find good friends at church who are secretly afraid that they have wasted their lives. I find people at work or new acquaintances online who just don’t think they’re good enough.
In fact, I don’t have to go any further than the art classroom where I teach to find all the discontentment in the world.
Let’s see, who’s coming in? Fifth graders. Perfect.
These fifth graders are so different than they were in first grade or kindergarten. Their cares and worries have multiplied. They no longer look at themselves through the lens of how God sees them, but through the lens of how their peers see them. Everything is image.
And for such big kids, they seem so helpless. Not like the five-year-olds.
The boys don’t think they are talented enough. Some of them scribble around on the paper, deflecting attention from their perceived inadequacies by performing below their talents.
And the girls…the girls are much more verbal. They put themselves down so much, it breaks my heart to hear them. The girls at this age spend so much time putting themselves down, criticizing themselves. Their souls are hunched over, weighed down with self-doubt and every kind of anxiety imaginable.
And in a few short years, they will be adults like you and me, still struggling to be content with themselves, still lacking the confidence to go and act boldly in the world because they don’t think they are good enough.
I ask them to stop working.
“Where does all of our talent come from?” I ask.
“God,” they answer.
“If God made us, and gave us all of the talents that He wanted us to have…” I pause a little, “How much sense can it make to complain about how God made us, to tell God that He didn’t do a good enough job?”
And suddenly, I realize that I’m preaching a little sermon that I desperately need to hear myself. Another one. Really, every little message and pep talk and sermon I’m giving the kids is something that I’ve forgotten how to live and am trying to re-learn, one baby step at a time. Along with these children, I’m trying to slowly realize that we have enough, we are enough. We are exactly what God wanted us to be. We just have to discover how God actually created us in the first place.
Reaching that discovery of how God created us is what Life After Art is all about. It’s the journey I’m taking, and I hope you’ll take it with me. Let’s recover the life and faith we were created to live, by rediscovering the children we used to be.
Did you miss out on your first chance to win a copy of Life After Art? No problem! For another chance to be entered, just comment on this post, anonymously if you prefer, by filling in the blank: “I wish I could be content with _____.” We’re giving away 5 copies total this week.
I hope you’ll come visit me soon. You can find me on my blog or social media or watch the video preview and the first chapter of Life After Art right now! You can also purchase a copy of Life After Art here.
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Matt is a teacher, pastor, artist and writer in Kansas City. His first book, Life After Art, was released by Moody Publishers April 2013....