Today (Friday) was the first day of Compelling, an annual Christian conference for college students that's organized by the Michigan InterVarsity organization. Over 700 students from across the state come to this conference, and though we do spend time together as a whole, the special feature of Compelling are the tracks. A "track" is basically a course that you sign up to take when you register, and you spend most of your time with the group of people who chose the same track as you. Each track has a specific theme and purpose, and theybasically set the tone for your Compelling experience. I chose "God at Work in the Arts", because even though I'm too afraid to share my voice and the songs I write with people, I still create things. And for that I consider myself an artist, even if I might be a poor example of one.
This is my first time ever going to a Christian conference. Thanks to Bryen, I joined a group called Asian Christian Intervarsity at my school this semester, and he and other people in that group convinced me to register for Compelling. And contrary to what I'd predicted, I didn't chicken out! So instead of a typical weekend of reading, studying, assignments, and checking off to-do lists, I have a whole weekend of Jesus, art, learning, prayer, fellowship, worship, and more Jesus ahead of me! As you can imagine, I am outside of my comfort zone in many ways.
I inadvertently arrived at the campus neighborhood where the event's being held an hour and a half early, so I thought I'd go into the nearby cafeteria and find a cozy corner to nap in. But before I could do that, I ran into my friend Josh. He really wanted to sit and talk with me, so that's what we did. I told him about Compelling and how I was nervous about having to share my gifts with the people in my track. When I mentioned that I sing and write songs, he asked,
"Is that something you'd want to pursue?"
"Yeah, in my dreams maybe. But I don't think that's possible for me."
"What's stopping you?"
"Well... I don't have the look or the connections. And I don't know if I'm good enough."
Cut to "God at Work in the Arts." Here I am with my nervous self, expecting to be trapped in a talent competition where everyone is better than me and no one minces words criticizing me and what I do. But I walk in, sit at my assigned table with seven other people, and all we do is talk. No pressure. Just, seven lovely people, kind people, who seem happy to meet me, care about what I have to say, listen to me when I speak.... and most of all, they speak my language because they're creators ("artists") too! And not even just them, the whole room was just full of people who spoke my language! I was so relieved! I won't get too much into everything we talked about as a table and a large group because I'm still trying to process it all. But we started with two questions about art that I want to share with you. Here are the questions and the responses that people gave:
truth/what is true
what you feel
to create/an act of creation
anything that's pretty
refreshment of the soul
expression through expressions/expressing yourself/an expression that leaves an impression
finding yourself (no one else can re-produce what you produce)
life and death
how/what you perceive it to be
The purpose of Art is...
to make people think/to invoke thought or introspection
to help or make people feel
channeling your inner soul
to transcend walls/break down barriers
to tell a story/teach and educate/ convey stories and lessons
to heal in a universal language
to help you find your own identity
to provide and express freedom
to relate to one another
to create explosions/ to affect catalytically
to give to your audience
Isn't that awesome? The overall theme of Compelling this year is "City Without Walls". This means being boundless and limitless, not only in our individual actions but also in our ability to reach new people and draw them to Christ. The lady who leads our track said today that art has a special ability to communicate about essential needs, about how people are really doing. Furthermore, what artists want most is "to create truth, beauty, and a sense of wonder in the people around us. To captivate and impact them. Go deeper." To think, once I get over myself and my issues, that I could actually captivate people? Make them feel something? Impact their lives? What a wonderful and fear-shattering existence that would be.
Like I said, I'm still trying to make sense of everything we've been discussing, and I'm sure I'll have more food for thought as the weekend goes on. I just want to be open to this experience so I can gain all that I possible can from it.
Wish me luck. Pray for me.