Since he was a child, Shin Maeng loved creating art. Unlike his brother, Shin wasn’t a good student and his parents had low expectations for his future. They discouraged his interest in art, preferring him to go into a more secure career. When he was at Rutgers University, he was inspired by a friend who was a street artist. Shin then enrolled in an art program but failed out after the first year. Shin recently joined our episode of Indigitous CoffeeTalks to talk about his journey.
When he returned home to his parents, Shin felt like a failure. His parents threw away a lot of his art supplies. He rejected his art, in part because of his perceived failure, and in part due to a desire to fit in. “To appease my parents, I’m going to not say I’m an artist anymore,” Shin decided at the time.
Shin gave up on art for almost a decade. He burned most of the art he’d created and didn’t tell anyone about his artistic interests. He did construction and other manual labor jobs but felt empty. There was something in him that needed to be expressed artistically.
Love and kindness create curiosity
Around that time, Shin met some Christians that treated everyone with love and kindness. They had all been educated at Ivy League schools, but never treated Shin or anyone else as being less intelligent because he didn’t have that education. Their loving nature made an impact on Shin. “Whatever they’re doing, there’s something about it that I need to know more about,” he says.
He later connected with another church community in Connecticut where many in the congregation practiced art like painting, poetry, and graphic design, in some cases professionally. A local renowned painter encouraged Shin to draw something and pushed him to pursue his artistic passion. Some of his other friends agreed and encouraged him to take up art again.
“I feel like God has been slowly but surely placing people in my life to be like, ‘you are loved, you are cherished, you are cared for, you are special, there is a gift in you,’” Shin says. Over time, Shin continued to nurture his artistic talent and passion.
Returning to his art
Before returning to his art, Shin felt dissatisfied with his life. His parents had an idea of what he should do with the rest of his life, but it didn’t seem right to Shin. “I wasn’t created for this,” he says of that time. “We all have a different calling.”
For Shin, that calling involves art, even if he didn’t always recognize that. Others were able to see it in him, though. One time when praying with some friends, someone prayed a prophetic prayer: “Your gifts will be a blessing to the church.” It made no sense to Shin at the time, but as he returned to his art, he began to see it.
Shin describes his art as “iconography graffiti.” It is a melding of disparate styles that he believes pack his work with meaning and help tell biblical stories. One work of art that means a lot to Shin is a mural that he created for InterVarsity for their Story Project that uses tattoo-like artwork to tell a Gospel story.
When a friend of his, Brunel, was going to backpack through Europe, Shin made sleeves featuring that mural art for him to wear. During his trip, Brunel sat in a cafe and a man who was walking by saw the sleeves through the cafe window. The man then walked into the cafe and told him that he had seen the mural art before and had come to faith due to a conversation around the art.
“Having people come to faith, be a blessing, be a light in darkness” due to his art has been a great confirmation that Shin is following God. “Oh gosh, I’m doing something right,” he says.
Finding your thing
Shin believes that everyone was created by God with certain passions and it is in pursuing those passions that you can best serve God. For him, it was art. Only when he returned to his art and started using it for the Church did he start to feel whole. Finding out how to serve God the best and how you will live your must fulfilling life all starts with the same question.
“Ask the question, what do you want? What is your dream? Have you brought that to Jesus?” Shin says. It took Shin almost a decade, but he eventually learned that what he wanted was to pursue his art and he needed to bring his art to Jesus and use it for missions.
For some people, it could be art. For others, it could be graphic design, building websites, or filmmaking. But for each person, there is that one thing that excites you or stirs passion in you. Take that passion to God in prayer and ask Him to bless your passion and give you opportunities to use it for Him.
Shin puts it this way. “I want people to present, like, ‘God, this is my dream. Is this the thing you want for me or if not, then what is the thing?’”
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
- Find your thing. Find the thing that excites you, that stirs passion in you, and where you have been gifted.
- Bring that thing to Jesus, ask Him to bless it and to help you use it for Him.