Archive for February 12, 2021

Knowing YOUR boundaries

Posted: February 12, 2021 in Uncategorized

The second of a three day series on the important topic of boundaries.

I was young. I was broke. I was a husband and father and I was a Christian who was trying to “make it” as an artist. I was hustling and taking pretty much anything I could get. One day I saw an ad for a cartoonist in the newspaper classified. Yes this was a long time ago. I walked through the door of the place and immediately noticed it was a little unsavory. The guy looked at my portfolio and thought I had what it takes to do the job. It was then that he told me the job. The company was making screen savers. (I told you it was a long time ago.) They wanted 1,000 cartoons for a screen saver and they would pay ten dollars per cartoon. Now I know that seems absurdly low, and it is, especially in today’s world, but all I could see was a $10,000 pay day. The problem was, the cartoons were pornographic. I wish I could tell you I immediately walked away from it. That is not quite the case. While I was a Christian, I was pretty deep into idolatry to my career at that time, and rather than turning it down outright (which is what I should have done) I asked for a little time to think it over. I spent a couple of hours rationalizing ways I could do this and hold my head up high, before the Spirit in me (with the help of my loving wife) won the fight and I turned it down. Why do I share this awkward, shameful story? Because you need to know your boundaries.

If you had asked me outright at that time if I would have done a job like that, I would have very proudly told you no, add half a year’s salary (at the time) to the mix and it became tougher than you think. Boundaries are important, and your faith should be one for any Christian creative. Would God be pleased with what I am doing? Does it honor Him? Etc. I praise Him every day that I turned that down. It would have paid a lot of bills that year, but at what cost?

But it’s not just moral boundaries. There are also boundaries of what you do and don’t do. I am a cartoonist and an illustrator. That’s my wheel house and what I do best. Now I can do other things, and there is certainly nothing wrong with stretching yourself creatively, but I have also had a few times where I have gone way outside my “zone of genius” as Dan Miller says. I remember once I saw an ad for an artist. I made a call and ended up in this beautiful home in Philadelphia. The man there was a collector of Disney animation cells. He was looking for an artist to paint replace backgrounds to display with his cells. I stupidly said I would do it and he gave me a shot. He wanted me to paint in gouache which was the medium the Disney artist used and a medium I had never used before. I wasn’t up to that level as an artist yet and I didn’t know how to use the media. Not surprisingly, I failed. A healthy boundary would have helped me to save some embarrassment and the loss of a lot of time and money I didn’t have.  

Speaking of healthy boundaries and time, this is a huge one. There are 24 hours in a day and you need to sleep and do all the other things that make life possible and worthwhile, like caring for your health and family time. Hustling is one thing, hurting yourself is another. I was a church plant pastor, doing creative ministry, working a full time job besides. I was sleeping about three hours a night and the rest of the time I was trying to do “the Lord’s work.” Then one day I started having chest pains and it was determined in the ER that I was having a mild heart attack. I was mad at God, but here’s the thing. God wast asking me to work myself into an early grave, and He certainly wasn’t asking me to work as if the success or failure of the church was all dependent on me. That incident told me I needed to have healthy boundaries and that it all depends on God and so do I. 

Know your boundaries.