I spent the first week of my sabbatical in my basement building the largest set LEGO has ever released to the public. The 7,541 piece Millennium Falcon was a joy to build. The combination of intense focus needed to complete a set so complicated and the playfulness that comes with both LEGO and Star Wars (two of my favorite fandoms) helped me transition from my norm into the time of sabbatical. Continue reading “Sabbatical Notes, Week 1: The Millennium Falcon”
Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life. (John 1:3-4a; context)
For my birthday this year, my then fiancée bought me a LEGO kit of a police helicopter. It was great fun to put together, and when I was finished the helicopter looked exactly like the one on the box. And no wonder, considering that I had followed the directions exactly. Not one piece was out of place. It was the perfect realization of the set on the box.
Then over the summer I instituted a LEGO club at church, and one of the participants brought in a helicopter of his own. It didn’t quite have the sleek lines of the dedicated pieces that the one I made had, but I sure thought his was way better. His was better because he didn’t use instructions to build it. It didn’t come from a kit ready to assemble. He built his helicopter directly out of his imagination. Whereas I constructed mine, he created his.
In this post, we are going to talk about the link between God’s creation and our own creativity. This link is the imagination, the wonderful gift that God gives us that helps us access our creativity. As we move on, I want you to be thinking about how you personally express your own creativity. We’ll get to that later; for now, just thank God simply because God created you.
Before we go any further in our discussion about imagination and creativity, I have to rehash some stuff that I’ve said before so please bear with me.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…everything came into being through the Word.” So says John the evangelist at the beginning of his account of the Gospel. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…God said, “Let there be light.” So says one of the writers of the book of Genesis at the beginning of the whole Bible.
The important words here for our discussion are “Word” and “said.” As these two writers articulate the miracle of God’s work in the beginning, God speaks creation into being. Now, we get into trouble when we decide that at the end of Day Six, God stopped speaking. God may have rested on Day Seven, but that Word, which God used to organize creation, continued and continues. God has never stopped speaking creation into being.
As parts of this creation, God continues to speak us into being, as well. None of us is finished being made yet. Not even close. God breathes life into us with each word God speaks, giving us the opportunity to grow, to change, to use our imaginations.
Creation is God’s imagination made real. When we access our imaginations, we tap into the kind of energy that God uses to create.
Our imaginations allow us to access our creative sides unrestrained by any thoughts of boundaries or rules. In the beginning of creation, there were no boundaries or rules; there was just God and God’s Word. So when we use our imaginations, we get as close as we can to the state God was in when God began to create. (Of course, we’re still really really really far from the actual state, but we are closer than we normally are.)
Our ability to imagine finds its roots in the reality that God made us in God’s image. You might think that this means, “in God’s physical appearance” because of our use of the word “image” in today’s parlance. But “image” here does not mean “superficial representation.” Rather, it is shorthand for “the deep and abiding spark of God’s Spirit that animates us.” It is that which is within us that allows us to imitate God, to reflect how God is, or to put it another way, to follow.
And it’s no coincidence that the words “image” and “imagination” come for the same root. When we tap into our imaginations, we find ourselves in a pure moment of creative energy. Children are so good at imagining because they don’t have as much baggage, which tends to pollute this pure moment. But even with baggage, we can soar into the heights of creativity. And in so doing, we enable the spark within us that is calling us to create in God’s image.
Talent Not Required
We’ve spent the first half of this post discussing the theological warrant for why we are able to engage our imaginations to aid in creative endeavors. Now let’s talk about one of the pitfalls that can accompany this discussion.
This pitfall centers around a word that is often linked to creativity, and that word is “talent.” Too often we ascribe the creative task only to those people we describe as “talented.” And while it is true that the vast majority of creative artifacts – paintings, musical scores, choreography, to name three – that survive the test of time come from talented people, this does not mean that so-called talented people have a monopoly on creativity. Rather, their works generate value beyond the initial act of creation because other people have decided on sets of factors that assign such value.
But the initial act of creation is much more important than any resultant value of a work. And anyone, no matter how much or how little talent he or she has, can and should create. Exercising our creativity, no matter what the outlet, allows us to reach deep inside and root around for the spark that God buried within us. In this searching for our creative spark, we concurrently probe for our strong, but often ignored, bond with God’s own constant creation. And this leads us to be better followers of Jesus Christ.
So don’t worry if you do not have what the marketplace has decided is “talent.” Don’t worry if the fruits of your creative endeavors sit in your basement once you’re done. Don’t worry if your creativity manifests itself in a way that leaves no material product, but rather leaves a mark on the life of someone else. Rather, create for creation’s sake. After all, that’s what God does.
A Poem for Creativity
As we close our discussion on creativity and imagination, I invite you to imagine with me how you might work with God to release your own creativity. Perhaps you will
Sing a song a way that’s not been heard before,
Or write a play and cast your little brother as the lead,
Or take a day to dig a garden in your yard
And sow some seeds that soon will be a living tapestry.
Or paint a picture with the watercolors in your bottom drawer,
Or stitch a many-colored quilt to lay across a pair of old, scarred knees,
Or take some pages from old magazines and roll them
Into beads for jewelry for your mother’s special day.
Or hum a tune you half-remember hearing at a pub, oh way back when,
Or write some epic verse about adventures Spot has when you are away,
Or take an afternoon to bake a latticed apple pie
And bring it for dessert to potluck night at church.
Or dance a dance that you are making up right then and there,
Or tell yourself the story of the star that shines before the others do,
Or take a piece of rusty clay and throw a pot
And glaze it with a dye you mixed yourself.
Or pick a bunch of daisies for the vase atop your sister’s chest of drawers,
Or weave a brand new romance with the threads of your two lives,
Or take some time to shape a handful of the deepest silence
Into a laugh
Or a cry
Or a long, contented sigh.
I leave this moment with you, God, imagining how you will move in my life tomorrow.