Definition: Any form of creative, artistic expression done for the simple joy of it, not for any monetary or practical purpose. The final outcome is not the goal, neither is perfection or affirmation from others, but the sheer joy that comes from worshiping and reflecting our Creator by creating.
When did we stop making things just for fun? Doing something creative simply because we enjoy it; not for any monetary or practical purpose, but just because we like to do it. How old were we when that stopped?
Do you remember as a child drawing a picture just for the fun of it?
We didn’t worry if we were good or if someone else was better or if someone would pay us for it. Our greatest ambition likely was just to hear our mother or father say they loved it. What higher praise was there at age four or five?
Why did we ever stop creating if we loved it?
There was no form of creative expression I didn’t enjoy as a child. I could spend hours painting, drawing, making fairy houses, carving sticks, writing stories, sewing, and making messes in general. My prized possession was the box that held all my craft supplies. Most gifts I gave I hand made. So much time spent lost in my own imagination, completely content. But as I grew up I slowly discarded many of those artistic pursuits. Somewhere along the way from childhood to adulthood the cultural idea that unless it has monetary or practical value, it is not worthwhile, crept into my subconscious. In fact, the older I got the more I systematically deleted each creative expression from my life. But why? Did I no longer enjoy them? No, with each year I became more pragmatic and critical of my own work. I began to compare my work to others. If I can’t be the best, what is the point?
I still identify as a highly creative person, but if I’m being honest, so little in my life actually reflects it. I have slowly let go of most of my creative outlets from my everyday life, deeming them useless.
It was around Christmas time this past year (2022) that God graciously reminded me that not only is creating a wonderful part of who I am, but also who we all are.
Let me unpack that a little further.
Sadly, many (if not most) of us have bought the lie that if we can’t be paid or affirmed by others to do it then there’s no point.
When I was in bible college I took my grandpa’s old 35mm film camera with me — though I knew nothing about photography and had no desire to become a photographer, I was still young enough to go for it and not fret over the details. I just enjoyed taking photos, so I did it. When I got home from my one year of Bible college I left my childish ways behind. Meaning I gave the camera back to Grandpa Ed and carried on with my life. Delete. Here I come adult life, no time for trivial time consuming hobbies.
How many things that brought me joy have I purged ruthlessly from my life because I told myself I would never be an artist, dancer, writer, poet, painter, photographer, etc?
We are God’s children, made in His image to reflect Him. We are made to worship our maker through making. So why do we relegate worshiping God through creativity to the professionals? The musicians and “real” artists? Why not instead embrace ordinary creativity? Artistic or creative endeavours that we do purely for the life giving joy of it. More importantly, as an act of worship. What if we can rid ourselves of the cultural lie that something is only worthwhile if it has practical or has monetary value.
As I was reflecting on these things I providentially recalled a book someone gave me three years prior, but I had never picked up. It’s called “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Though writing from a secular perspective, I could see the fingerprints of our Creator in much of what she was saying. When I picked up her book I was surprised how her thoughts were aligned with what God had already been teaching me. She reminds her readers that creating should be done because it brings us joy. And that we should have the courage to do it because it is worthwhile if it delights us. She does a wonderful job making her case. Except she’s removed God from the picture.
She has this theory that ideas (creativity) are these sort of spirits that float around waiting for a human to be open enough to them to work together. Any human willing to be still enough and brave enough to embrace the creative process can work in tandem with the (spirit) idea. Of course we find that kind of language dangerous as Christians, but only because it’s a twisting of the truth! The truth that our Creator made us as creative beings and we have the very Spirit of the Creator dwelling inside of us!
I used to write poetry. I even wrote songs when I was quite young. Maybe they were terrible, but I did it from a childlike heart out of love and the desire to worship my heavenly Father. When did I stop being brave? I used to dance around my living room in my prettiest twirling dress , not because I was destined to be a ballerina, but for the sheer joy of worshiping Jesus.
The Holy Spirit is the nucleus of creative energy that actually dwells in us! What if Elizabeth Gilbert isn’t wrong, just missing the essential element? What if our Creator wants to pour out His spirit on us to create? Maybe we aren’t the next Michalangelo or Emily Dickinson or Bach. We might not even share it with another soul. But what if in our own way we can reflect our Father by giving ourselves permission to take time for ordinary creativity? I believe that there is great joy to be found if we are brave enough to be creative. If we can have courage, this is something our souls long for, that they were created for, and it is delightfully uncomplicated.