She knocks on the door to my office and waits until I motion her in. Politely she asks with expectant eyes if I'd like to visit her "gum store." For once making the right choice (trying to remember if I've put her off earlier for the same request) I rise from my work and take her by the hand.
Her big brown eyes and freckled face are all delight as she tours me around the various flat surfaces of her bedroom, each delicately decorated with candies and gums of many colors and varieties. On one particular tray she has segregated Chiclet candies by color, arranging rows of them in a clever striped pattern. On another featuring one lone piece of gum on a tiny silk pillow, she has affixed a sign that reads, "Some of our gum is even royal!"
Everywhere there are signs, and prices, and even games to be played. Displays have been crafted with boundless creativity and flare. Her marketing skills as a 9 year-old are so far ahead of most adults that I consider hiring her on the spot to write ad copy for our company. "And here are some magazines I put together, Daddy," she says, offering me two well-researched handcrafted gems replete with explanations and diagrams showing how gum is manufactured. Throughout each magazine are clever ads and jingles, one-liners and specials. I marvel at the bud of talent inborn.
She is my only daughter, all sweetness and flair, with her own style and dramatic expression. She is precious to me beyond description. And perhaps to her, I am (in addition to her mother) the only audience that counts. Her happiness increases as she sees that her work has pleased me. Later, she again enters my office and hugs me. "I love you so much," she says.
The creative process is exhilerating. We conceive an idea, lay out our plans, and begin work under the most naive of expectations. The mere act of putting things together as we see them rushing into our mind is invigorating. In this delicate early phase, we are alone with the stream of conciousness and can hardly answer its call quickly enough.
Eventually, however, our peaceful cocoon of creativity must clash with the violent opinions of the real world. And usually we are not treated very kindly. Know-it-alls and pedants, critics and cynics swoop in to pluck the joy from our freshly birthed creations - feeding on our receding happiness like parasites without a food source of their own.
And it hurts.
In fact, many who are stung by the unfeeling mud from the masses retreat within themselves and carefully hide the candle under a bushel, having learned the lesson not to bring it out in front of others ever again. It is tragedy in the true sense of the word. When one's creativity is snuffed by harshness, innocence is lost. Something dies. The world is a little less beautiful.
But a true artist doesn't perform for the world. A true artist creates because it is what she does; who she is. All she has to do is remember who her true audience is. It's not the world, or its teeming masses of unthinking envious critics, or even its well-meaning coldhearts. No. Her real audience is her father, her Father in heaven. He is the One who embedded those talents and creative capacities in her to begin with, and it is for His pleasure she should give life to their impulse. Just as I attempted to do in the sincere expression of my approval and affirmation for my daughter's "gum store," God does for His children; for those who are called according to His purpose. He is never harsh or unkind in his praise of our sincere use of talents for His glory. And He is never too busy. Having thus pleased Him, we should thereby be insulated against the opinions of mere mortals. After all, it wasn't for them.
So express those truths you hold deep inside. Create, write, paint, build, design, assemble, as for a king. His is the only opinion that counts. He is your lone audience; the audience of One.