With all the many books I read each year, there aren’t many that stand out as a life-changing tool. But when I discovered A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, something dormant within me resonated and began to come to life.
Join me in the awakening.
Uncovering The Artist Within
On the heels of discovering an amazing TED talk not too long ago on the topic of being an artist, a very unique book came to my attention. I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across it; again, there are so many books I read that it’s easy to lose track.
All I can remember is hearing the title and reading the description of the book. From there, my curiosity gained momentum until I was searching for videos about it, eventually finding a series of discussions about the book between Emily Freeman and a couple of her friends.
From there I was hooked; I simply had to have this book. So I did what I do best when it comes to shopping for books: I checked out my local library first. As it so happened, the digital version of my library (R.E.A.D.S.) had the book available to check out in ebook format. I downloaded it on my Kindle 5th generation and began reading.
I finished the book in about two days, after which I immediately purchased a paperback copy and began transferring all my highlights to it.
It was as if the creative part of my soul had been dining on fast food and had now discovered a gourmet meal.
As I read, I continued to find tons of amazing analogies, spiritual truths, and, most importantly, validation that what I had been feeling in my spirit as an artist with multiple desires to express myself was, in a word: Okay.
"Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are."
One Artist, A Million Little Ways
One of the aspects of this book that resonates with me the most is the sudden revelation that I don’t have to be constrained to only one form of creative expression.
With so many ideas, projects, and (seemingly important) obligations, I constantly find myself torn between what will best suit my need to express my inner thoughts, emotions, and ideas as an artist.
Sure, I’m an accomplished musician, but that’s not all I am; not all that I want to be. This year, as my main goal and promise to myself, I wanted to explore writing and delve into the writing life in hopes of creating something interesting and worthwhile; namely, finishing my first novel (though many other facets of writing have emerged, such as finishing and releasing two short stories [technically three], writing content for this blog, and writing in my journal).
I also like to read, learn, create material for my YouTube channel, and various other aspects of creativity. And for the longest, I’ve felt guilty at favoring one pursuit at the expense of all the many others.
But after reading A Million Little Ways, most especially the chapter on “Sinking into God” (Ch. 5: “Sink: Look Up”), I realized that, as the book so eloquently yet ingeniously states:
“[God] comes into us, then comes out of us, in a million little ways.”
God Qualifies The Called
One of my favorite quotes in the book was this:
“God doesn’t call the qualified; God qualifies the called.”
Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker
This comes from the third and final section of the book entitled “Release the Art You Were Made to Live,” which deals with the fullness of creative expression: you as the art and not just the artist.
All throughout the book, Emily Freeman continues to point out what could easily be seen as the main theme of the book: as artists, we are God’s art, His “workmanship” (which she says translates to the Greek word poiema, equivalent to our English word poem) “created unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
This revelation creates a completely new perspective when it comes to what we do as artists. I myself sometimes feel very inadequate in expressing the thoughts, ideas, and emotions that long to come out in so many forms and expressions.
This, more than anything I think, is the cause of such frequent strong feelings of failure and inadequacy: the idea that I can’t do it, that someone else can do it—and probably already has done it—better than me.
However, if it’s God “which worketh in [me] both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13), then I no longer have to rely on my own creative abilities; I only need to trust that He is able to lead me in the right direction, guide me to the appropriate outlets of creative expression, and help me relay the exact thoughts, emotions, and ideas which my soul wants to share with the world.
This is how God “qualifies” and enables me to live the art I was truly created to make.
In her magnificent book, Emily Freeman states that in previous years she used to be an interpreter for the deaf via sign language and has since retired from this work. But when I finished A Million Little Ways, I couldn’t help but notice the connection and similarities in both her profound writing and her skills as an interpreter.
By using the signing skills she learned to convey to those who can’t hear the messages people were trying to send, Emily Freeman has, in writing this book, served once again to interpret the message that my heart, my soul, my creative self has so longed to hear: I am God’s art, He created me in His image; therefore, I am a creative soul and He delights in my art!
I encourage you in the words of Jesus, regarding the parable of the Good Samaritan: “Go thou and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
A Million Little Ways: 7 Favorite Quotes
“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”
In regards to Freewriting:
“Many of us have spent our entire lives editing out our first thoughts.”
"So the Poet himself stepped out of heaven and into the poem ... He steps out of heaven into us, his poiema, his workmanship."
“In the act of sinking into God ... we begin to know who he is. In turn, we know who we are as well.”
“Fear drives out the love. When you work from fear, there is no love in your work. And we don’t want your loveless art.”
“People bring simple offerings to Jesus, and then Jesus hands miracles back to the people.”
“Stop trying so hard to read the Scriptures to look for answers but instead, let the Scriptures read you. Move toward God.”
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Questions: Have you ever felt like expressing yourself but didn’t exactly know how?
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