It happens to pretty much everyone at an early age. You’re handed a paper smothered in dots, and are instructed to carefully draw lines from one to another, with the promise that an image would appear. Thick crayons scrunched in your tiny hand, you learned to “connect the dots” to find the hidden giraffe or pumpkin. It was like magic.
The ancients knew how to connect the dots too. The Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Chinese—they all pondered the night sky and connected the stars. For there were figures in the stars that pointed to something greater than themselves—ancient mythos, creation stories, foreboding omens and immutable fates. And though it was more superstition than truth, they all understood that they were a part of something larger than themselves.
The ancient Hebrews also saw themselves as part of a greater story. Quite unlike us, the Hebrews defined themselves not primarily as individuals but more so as a part of the nation Israel. We see ourselves as fiercely independent dots on the page—disparate, unconnected, alone. The Hebrew saw himself as one part of a greater whole, one dot in an historical sequence, and the lines that connected their dots defined the greater picture that was their identity, their calling, their promise.
King David, poet warrior and beloved of God, connected the dots when he wrote:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
David saw more than mere points of light. He saw a beautiful, vast, constant reminder of who the Creator was, and by extension, who we are as His people.
The story of all that is, is the Story of God. He takes His pen in hand to write the story: Creation, Fall, Redemption. All of history, all of the Bible, all of what was and is and is to come, can be described according to this three-act play that God is writing in the universe. This larger story, sometimes referred to as the Christian Meta-Narrative, is a crucial element in understanding our faith, for God is the Author of Days.
Each of our stories is a part of the Meta-Narrative. For each of us is a prodigal, marred by sin and saved by grace, and our lives are subplots in the script, a microcosm of God’s redemptive work in the universe.
As artists of faith, we have the capacity to tell a story through our paintings, plays, cinematography, choreography, songs. And that story—in some small way—should reveal that the world is somehow broken, and motivated by a great encompassing love, God is in the process of rescuing it. Our art should then provoke a response from our audience, some meaningful reaction to the unveiled story. In one small way or another, our art should be a catalyst for the dialogue of the Christian Meta-Narrative. We are storytellers, rendering the points of light that declare God’s glory.
The northern skies feature a small constellation of seven stars, known by many names: the Plough, the Butcher’s Cleaver, the Big Bear, the Seven Sages, the Big Dipper. It is significant, in part because it is a point of reference to the North Star, the bright and unmoving star. Sailors would use this constellation in navigation. Runaway slaves would “follow the drinking Gourd” to the north and to freedom. According to an Old English Rune poem, the Pole Star “keeps faith well.”
As artists, we must understand that part of our calling is to shine our light, and join the constellation that tells God’s Story. Because without understanding the big picture—and the Hand that draws it—we are doomed to lose our way.