NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, November 17th.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the Olasky Interview.
Today a conversation with Michael O’Brien. He started his career as a struggling painter and frustrated writer.
EICHER: Years of obscurity proved fertile ground, both for O’Brien’s art and his soul. Here’s an excerpt of his conversation with WORLD editor-in-chief Marvin Olasky:
MARVIN OLASKY: Now you lost your religious beliefs, but you had a transformation in 1969 at age 21…
MICHAEL O’BRIEN: From early childhood onwards I loved Jesus. I loved everything about our faith. I believed. I had no doubt. But after the encounter with human darkness and spiritual darkness, doubts entered. Rationalization entered. And it was also the mid to late 1960s, so there was a social revolution going on. That was pulling the foundations out of practically everything. I fell away from the faith.
After my reconversion, my “born again” experience if you will, new dimensions of life in Jesus Christ opened up for me with great power and great beauty.
OLASKY: Now, skipping maybe six years, marriage in 1975, and then God in his generosity over the next eight years gives you four children. We jump to say 1983, you are busy with your art. You also have a lot of financial insecurity. Tell us how you gripped that.
O’BRIEN: How did we get through those years? There was a grace given to both my wife and myself that I was called to paint the things of God, to paint Christian art, and later to write of the things of God in Christian fiction. That he was calling me to this specific work, against all odds against all likelihood of success. This was definitely the path that God desired for us. That it would not be easy. That there will be times of extreme tribulation, conflict. Many, many times when it would look as if it was all coming to nothing. There was a lot of rejection. There was a lot of slammed doors in our faces.
Once in a long while I would sell a painting. But I also was being flooded with inspirations to write novels, which I wrote. And they too received tons of letters of rejection from publishers. For 20 years…19 years.
OLASKY: Did you ever count them?
O’BRIEN: No, I never counted them but it’s a lot. Painfully a lot. But I remember in my painting, one year, I traveled all over Western Canada, meeting with gallery owners contacting gallery owners, trying to interest them and an exhibit in my, in my religious art. And I was told again and again—in, delicate terms—”Well we love your art, your style, this is great stuff, but, you know, the art buying public is no longer interested in this subject matter.”
So, with galleries, I was accepted at two galleries. One small gallery. I arrived in that city in Western Canada with my truckload of paintings, only to find that the curator of the gallery had had a nervous breakdown. And she and her family had decided to close the gallery. So no show.
A few months later I had another gallery show scheduled in Ontario, a very prestigious gallery, who were taking a big risk to show Christian art. Their gallery burned down just before I was to get in the truck to drive east with my paintings. They decided never to reopen. But always there was this sense of, keep putting one foot in front of the other across the desert. Keep moving. Keep creating. And above all, keep praying.
Perhaps it’s a pattern for all faith—people have faith—there will be time of trials. And he has never, ever failed us.
OLASKY: From that difficult period in 1986-87, you have a couple of paintings entitled: the place where we all could live. Where there’s community, there are houses, a church, vast mountains in the background. It’s neither a cozy little thing, nor is it a Hudson River Valley worship of nature. I mean there’s lots of snow but people are walking and skating and they’re not hiding. So does that reflect your awareness of God’s majesty but also your confidence in His immanence?
O’BRIEN: Well Marvin I think you said it perfectly.You know it’s like holding a dream on high. So, the dream of a place of beauty and love, a family, and of faith. It is something that is true, and beautiful, and good, embedded in the hearts of our souls. It’s an icon, if you will. Of what we will know in Paradise, in eternity. But we’re not there yet. But we do need these images, either in the heart or even in our arts, that hold hope on high for us, and remind us of our eternal destination. And how beautiful it is. How wonderful it will be.
REICHARD: To read more of this interview with Michael O’Brien, check out the November 7th issue of WORLD Magazine, or you can read it online. We’ll include a link to it in today’s transcript at worldandeverything.org.