Finding God through Art

Artist Makoto Fujimura shares how he came to understand the beauty he creates through art by understanding and accepting the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Questions for Discussion and Personal Reflection

  1. Have you ever encountered God in unique or unexpected ways?
  2. Do you agree that knowing Jesus helps us understand and appreciate beauty?

It takes a special encounter, I think, to really be able to say that Jesus is and was and will be God. I was 27, and I had received this national scholarship to study this ancient technique of painting called Nihonga which is Japanese-style paintings using azurite and malachite and, um, these beautiful brushes and using silk and paper and extravagantly beautiful materials. I realized that I didn't have a place in my heart— a shelf in my heart— to hold that beauty, the very beauty I was creating. I was reading a poem by William Blake, uh, who I studied in college, and, um, his last epic poem called "Jerusalem." Blake created a composite figure called Albion who asked all the questions that I was asking. He was kind of this, uh, symbol for searching humanity, and there's Jesus on the cross, uh, answering him from the cross. Albion says, "Oh, Lord, my selfhood cruel marches against thee deceitful to meet thee in this pride." And Jesus answers from the cross. He says, "Fear not, Albion. Unless I die, thou cannot live." And then he, Jesus, goes into this soliloquy, which is one of the most beautiful summarization of what the Christians call the Gospel: the good news. And he tells Albion, "Wouldst thou love one who never died for thee or ever die for one who has not died for thee? And if God dieth not for man and gives himself eternally for man, man cannot exist. For God is love as man is love, and every kindness to another is but a little death in the divine image." I was reading it but it was almost like this voice coming over me, this voice that washed over me, and, um, I realized at that moment this historic figure of Jesus was no longer just this historic figure, but he was the one who was calling me all along through my creativity, and I realized, if this is true— if Jesus is the one who gave his life for me so I would know love, the greater love that I have been longing for— if this is true, then that is exactly the paradigm that would allow me to understand beauty, beauty that I was creating. That I could see that not just as a self-expression, but as an offering. And at that moment, my life changed. I did not know for about a year that I had become a Christian, um, but I started to run with Jesus at that moment. Um, I wanted to know about Jesus. I wanted to know more about the Bible. Um, I wanted to understand this love, um, love that is defined by sacrifice. And, um, at that moment, um, I think I realized that art, which was this god for me, uh— a way to seek out the truth— uh, has a deeper magic, deeper well, and, um, and his name was Jesus.