Creativity & Christianity

Y’all. I have a straight up, cookie crumbles on top treat for you today. My dear friend Abbie is sharing some deep, critically important thoughts about creativity and Christianity, and I swear my heart beat quickened with her eloquent words. I hope you all will take a few minutes to consider her thoughts and ask yourself how you respond to them.

Abbie and I have been friends since fifth grade, and I’ve shared before that she’s my idea friend. She’s the friend I share my big, secret dreams with first because I know she’ll cheer me along. She recently started her blog and it’s one of my favorite online places to frequent. But I’ll stop blabbering and let you get to the good stuff now!

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I used to be a ballerina. I was good at it and I loved it. There were several reasons that I quit towards the end of high school, but one of the big motives was that I started to feel it was a selfish way to spend my time and energy. I began to think that any time spent not leading or participating in a bible study, doing “outreach,” discussing theology, or helping someone through a crisis was wasted, selflishly spent time and was not beneficial or glorifying to God.

Perhaps it was selfish for me, at that time. I don’t even know anymore. Regardless, I have spent the past several years pondering, praying, watching and reading about artistry in the life of a Christian. My view of creativity and craftmanship has since changed; I no longer regard it as a selfish waste of time. In fact, I see it as the opposite. The ability to create is a gift that needs to be honed, shared, and celebrated. Not only is it a gift, however. I believe it is a necessity in our lives.

We need to create because it glorifies God.

God is the most innovative, prolific, talented, passionate, push-the-envelope, take-your-breath-away Artist there is. Think of all of the God-made beauty that exists in the world. Think of how attracted we are to the rush of the ocean and all of the wonder that it holds in its depths. Look at how the most luscious wildflowers grow without any human help. Have you ever reached the summit of a mountain or looked up at a night sky full of bright stars? Have you felt that sense of awe, of being overwhelmed by natural artistry? God brings beauty from absolutely nothing. He paints galaxies and sculpts canyons and molds the perfect musculature of millions of animals. These are things that could never be replicated by human hands.

And yet, we are made in his image (Genesis 1:27). We were made to reflect this Artist, to represent him on earth. When we imitate him by creating, it honors him, and he delights in that.

We need to create because we cannot resist it.

Not only do we need to create for God, but we also need to create for our own wellbeing. The same way that we are made to eat and sleep, we are also made to create and bring order out of chaos. It is engrained in who we are as image bearers.

When I dance (whether that’s an impromptu dance party in my kitchen or a class at a studio), I feel that I am grasping what it means to be a human and I am grateful to be alive. I think it is crazy that our bodies can express
such specific things, deep things, things that people
can relate to, all without words. That our blood pumps and our muscles contract and our joints can work in such simultaneously strong, elegant, and powerful ways. That an arm can communicate so much grace in just one movement. That we are not robots. We are exquisite creations with marvelous bodies, beautiful minds and enormous capacities to create in ways that no other earthly beings can. We were made to create. It is who we are. We need it like we need water.

We need to create because it builds community.

Art brings us together. It literally brings us to the same place (an art gallery, a theatre, etc), and it also relates people emotionally and spiritually. It creates opportunity for encouragement and provides platforms for thought and conversation among people of different personalities, backgrounds and religions. I believe that there are common human experiences such as suffering and love and hope that can be communicated across time, distance, language, and cultural barriers. Through art, I have the ability to communicate to you that you are not alone and give you assurance and hope. This is a beautiful thing.

I realize, of course, that I am talking to a world of Pinterest and Etsy and artsy
Instagrams. So maybe this idea seems like common sense to you. Or maybe the opposite is true and
you’ve never really considered the meaning or motivation behind opening that Etsy shop, or why you should take that painting class, or the placement of those peonies for your next Instagram (something I would probably spend an entire eight minutes on). This is certainly not a new topic. People have been having this conversation for
centuries. But I think that it is crucial to our human experience and that we should keep talking
about it, writing about it, painting about it and dancing about it.

Although today I am talking primarily about creating art, I am not referring only to art. Perhaps you or someone you know and love are not the “artsy” type. There are many people who are not wired to enjoy or find glory, rest, and community in drawings or poetry or dancing. Maybe spreadsheets are more your thing. In Stephen Altrogge’s ebook called Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff, he challenges the stereotypical definition of “creativity” by saying, “When an accountant massages an unruly mass of data into an intelligent sales report, she is reflecting the image of God.” We are all meant to create. Even if that means creating an Excel document instead of a poem. (PS, I am strongly recommending this book to every Christian, artist,
and human being. It is extremely practical and helpful, you can get
through it in less than two hours and it’s only 99 cents on your Kindle
or Kindle app!)

So, what arena of creation are you passionate about? What is it that makes your heart beat, that inspires you, that opens your eyes and lets you see the beauty that exists in a broken and exhausted universe? Are you using your gifts and passions to glorify God and bring healing and restoration to yourself and those around you? If not, what is one step you can take this week to start creating? Share in the comments!

Artwork by my dear friend Jackie, with the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” by Robert Frost.

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