We so often think of creativity as the special right of a limited few. Visual artists, musicians, authors—they’re the creative types. Sometimes we limit it even more. Our friend’s cover band, for example, isn’t really “creative.” They’re just mimicking the creative work of others. I, for one, rarely consider myself creative. I explain to others, “I’m a writer but not a creative one.” I reserve “creative” to apply to fiction writers, those magical geniuses who draw me into new worlds rather than just examining the world we have.
Lately I’ve been playing with a different idea of what creativity means. What if we said that creativity has more to do with how we see the world than what we produce? What if we said that creativity has nothing to do with how we spend our free time and everything to do with what we see when we look around. Let’s give creativity this definition: Looking at the world with eyes for beauty.
If we gave that definition some real weight, we might discover something amazing about ourselves and our relationship to God. We might just discover sparks of holiness connecting our creative imaginations to God’s. Why not? Time and time again we affirm that God is a creative God. God creates and re-creates the world every single day. Every single day, God says to us, “Look! I’m doing a new thing. Don’t you see it?”
Here’s the secret to the creativity of those who openly call themselves artists. They see the world with possibility. A fallen leaf becomes a symbol of grace in the eyes of the photographer. In the ears of the musician, a single note becomes the framework for capturing love. In the creative heart of God, a human pain is transformed into a place for healing grace.
To look at the world with eyes for beauty is to see all of this. The pain and the potential. The deep, heart-aching beauty that arises with each and every human interaction. The persistent question rising in your soul: “what can I do with such awe-inspiring potential everywhere?”
When we look with creative vision, we see the beautiful possibility of the homeless man pleading for money. We see the beautiful possibility of the single mom, struggling with alcoholism. We see the beautiful possibility of the suburban family, searching for meaning in a life that is busy but empty. We see all these things as beautiful invitations to join in the creation. Like a haunting piece of musical improv, we’re invited to appreciate what’s there and still see what’s missing. We’re invited to add our unique riff to the eternal melody.
The mystery of this creative life, this search for beauty, is that once we see it we cannot help but dive in. If you’ve ever been moved by a painting or a song, you know what I mean. You stand in the museum staring at the piece, yearning to make it part of your life. You feel, for one brief instant, the desire to learn to paint. It burns white hot inside of you, a flash of inspiration and passion.
Then it passes. It dies out cold and hard. You realize that you don’t have the time or money to undertake “real art.” You realize that you’d never be that good anyway. You realize, too, that you have nothing else to contribute. After all, this masterpiece has already been created. What could you possibly do that would rival it?
That, friends, is the mark of Resistance. Resistance is that almost physical pull to do something—anything—other than pursue a life of meaning. In his introduction to The War of Art, Steven Pressfield has this to say about Resistance and creativity, “If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when [God] endowed each of us with our own unique genius.”
Resistance doesn’t stop with art, though. Resistance pushes against us every time we pursue beauty. Resistance tells us there’s not enough time for us to volunteer at the homeless shelter. Resistance raises its cynical head, judging the poor and outcast and convincing us they’ll never change. Resistance whispers that we’re too small to make a difference. Resistance tricks us coming and going. It tells us one minute that there is no hope. It tells us in the next minute that everything important is already being done.
Having failed many times in the face of Resistance, I can say with certainty that it’s a powerful force. Perhaps even more powerful than outright destruction. When we destroy, whether on canvas or in a more personal way, we at least leave room for new creation. The very emptiness calls out for new life. But if we fail to do anything, whether to create or to destroy, we die. We die because we have failed to respond to beauty. We have lost our most intimate way of connecting with the ever-creating God.
The call to live creatively isn’t a small thing. It’s not just a fun way of discovering our free-spirited artist selves. It’s a call from our very soul to connect with what God is doing. It’s a call to ask, “what’s beautiful here and how can I add more?” After all, each and every day, God calls out to us. “Look, I’m doing a new thing. Don’t you see it?”
At #wholemama this week we’re thinking about creativity. What practice keeps you going?