As I prepare to graduate, questions and plans about my future continue to consume my thoughts. Anxiety seems to be an inevitable side effect of this search. In seeking the Lord to determine my next steps, I have found great encouragement in the life and work of artist/poet, Morgan Harper Nichols. Visually beautifully and verbally poignant, Nichols’s artwork is on display on her thriving Instagram account, which has nearly a half-million followers. The majority of her work is done as “a daily practice of generosity” (her words), acting as pieces of personally-crafted encouragement in response to stories submitted from fans.
Nichols graciously agreed to comment on my questions regarding the complex marriage of pursuing one’s passion—and, while doing so, positively influencing others for the glory of God.
A few issues ago, I wrote an article entitled, “Find what sets your heart ablaze: A love letter to my passion.” Hopefully, this interview will serve as a complement to that piece. After all, Nichols is significantly wiser than I am.
Q: From my research, I noticed that you and your sister were homeschooled. Our school, The King’s Academy, is a Christian homeschool-hybrid school; I’m sure we have a great deal in common regarding our first years. How has your upbringing and education influenced your worldview and career path?
A: My sister and I were homeschooled and were a part of homeschool co-ops for most of our education. This environment was very helpful for me, especially when it came to cultivating my creativity. In addition to the core curriculum, my mom would also give us the opportunity to study our craft through music, creative writing and art. I was so grateful for this, especially considering a lot of the schools in our area did not have programs like that. I consider it a huge blessing that I got the opportunity to focus on these things from a young age.
Sadly, we live in a world where a lot of people do not get encouragement when it comes to their gifts at a young age, and it can be very hard to remember these gifts as you get older. Being in a smaller classroom setting with teachers (my parents!), who both saw and encouraged me in my gifts, made a huge difference in me being able to retain my knowledge of those gifts as an adult.
Q: The world seems to inundate our minds with messages telling us to “Follow our dreams,” while Christian culture can often seem to proclaim a contrary message: “Follow what God tells you to do.” How have you found the ‘sweet spot’ in obeying God’s call for our lives while still pursuing our passions?
A: There is definitely tension between figuring out what we want to do and what was meant for us to do. Even though God did not exactly give us a blueprint with the details laid out for every passion, dream, or calling we might have, He did give us the opportunity to trust Him with every step. He did give us the opportunity to slow down and listen, gather wisdom and realize as long as we are doing what we do for what is Greater than us, that is what truly matters.
It does not mean that we will navigate through ministry, college, internships, new jobs and ventures easily and perfectly, but if we keep our eyes fixed above, doing what we do to extend Christ's Love for others, that is "the dream" to follow. That is the place to begin. From there, we should ask ourselves on a daily basis: "Who I am doing this for? Why I am doing this? How am I being a Light to others today? How I am showing Christ's love?" When these questions are at the heart of our pursuits, it can help keep us grounded when there is so much pressure coming from the outside.
Q: Do you have a life mission or “mantra” that can be described in a few words or phrases? How does this play into your career choice?
A: I used to write a lot of poetry in high school, but I stopped writing for a long time. One day, I started to write again, and one of the lines from the first poem I wrote was, "You are wrapped in endless, boundless grace." I truly believe that even though I was the one to write these words on the page, God was speaking to me in that moment. He was reminding me that grace is not about how hard I work, how much I accomplish, or how far I go in my career; instead, it was about me experiencing the unconditional love of God, no matter how my status is in this world.
Grace is something I hold onto and write a lot about in my work, because even though I have been working as a creative professional for many years now, I still have doubts about my progress, growth, and doing work that matters. Grace reminds me the progress I make is not about how much I achieve, but the Glorious work that is being accomplished through me.
Q: It can seem like an impossible task to find a job that pays well, fulfills us, touches others and honors God. How would you advise a young person who is confused about their life’s calling?
A: The first thing I would say is that many adults struggle to find their life's calling, too, so if you have not figured it out yet, that is alright! I think one of the best things you can do is to take heart, have courage, and not be afraid to try new things. You might try an internship that hits one of the right areas, but does not hit the others; that is okay. You did not fail just because it was not the right fit for you at that time, and that is okay. You might get to college or start working in a career that you will enjoy, only to find that it is not right the fit. That is okay, too.
Whether you are in a place where you have too many options to choose from, or no options at all, you can still choose an opportunity that is going to allow you to learn, grow and prepare you for whatever will come next. When you are young, you may feel like choosing a college, career, or vocation is going to define the rest of your life. In the end, this is just only a part of the greater picture of what God has in store for you.
Discover more about Nichols at morganharpernichols.com or at @morganharpernichols on Instagram.