Those little artists remain alive in us, even though they can often be stunted in our lifeless souls. We are not all artists in the narrow definition of the term perhaps, but in the broader, Princeton.Edu definition we are: “a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination.” You aren’t an artist because your job is to create art, but it is because you have an imagination and want to express ideas to the world around you with a measure of creativity and sensitivity. Teachers, pastors, engineers, nurses, counselors and homemakers all have an artist-soul–just to name a few.
Even now, some of you are raising your hands and shaking your head defensively. “Not me. Not me. I’m not creative.” Perhaps you scoff at the words with a bitter sorrow—longing for them to be true, or alternately afraid your closet-artist will be outted.
Sometimes I think we are Oreo cookies, and we had all yummy goodness eaten out while we were young. Now we are left with only the plain chocolate cookie. When does it happen? When did it happen to you? Or maybe you are one of the determined few who have clung to your child-heart but are shamed into hiding what lies within by the stern voice of reason.
When children play, they create. Sticks become guns and spears or spoons that stir gobblty goop. Better yet, they become magic wands that weave enchantment or conductors’ batons directing stuffed-animal orchestras. Boxes transform to burrows for bunnies or boats. They also become trains in which kids can chug up mountains. Hands form circles to create spyglasses or are spread wide to make butterfly wings. And my—don’t all children love to move to music or sing—until they are silenced because it’s imperfect or embarrassing.
Somewhere along the line someone tells us, and we believe, “You don’t have a creative bone in your body. You are no artist.” We are told, “Sit down and shut up. Behave. Be still. That’s silly, ugly, ridiculous, out of tune, or messy.” So we quit, and the voices of a thousand proper beings shout down the child within that still seeks to create beauty out of broken glass and paper scraps—or longs to bring joy to a chilly world by placing flowers on a cardboard-box table.
Some naysayer is thinking, but children must grow up.
I want to assert that each person—even you who order your life so carefully—has a child within waiting to get free from time-out.
Look for it. Look for it in the meals you prepare, the way you dress, and the joy you find in an attentive walk in the woods. Notice how you get creative when solving a problem at work or with your spouse or kids. Perhaps you love books—their stories and words, or maybe you appreciate the rhythm of music and poetry, or the cinematic wonder of a Spielberg film.
I was with a friend tonight who swears she has only a left-brain—but she said this just before noticing during our prayer together, “that the birds songs are welcoming the evening and the darkness with as much song as they welcome the morning light.” Seriously—no right brain?
Curiosity, too, is a sign of creativity. How is that done, you wonder, when looking at a candy cane? How do you make candles or sew drapes, prune trees or design cars? How would I do that? Can I do that?
My oldest son is a doctor, and I’m so glad he embraces his creative soul on his weeks off. He dabbles in furniture making or painting, and this week I discovered he’s making candles. He talked about it—sharing the intricacies of the art with the same measure of pleasure he did when he began to study medicine. My youngest son experiments with making wine, and he has a deep curiosity about life and how to do things. And my daughter demonstrates her creativity as she makes beauty using paint and canvas, pen and paper, and other interesting media.
We do the world and ourselves a great disservice when we tell ourselves that it is less rational to yield to creative longings. We yield to the desire for control; it’s neater. When we embrace control, we shut down the playful one living within who seeks to splatter paint on the canvas of our hearts or scroll poetry across the edges of the drab walls other’s lives.
O God! I want color and beauty. I want a cure for cancer and AIDS and a bridge that spans the ocean. I want to see an end to war and injustice. I want human slavery and addiction to be gone. I want to listen to the music of beautiful arias and playful jazz. I especially want beauty in my heart—a heart that pants after the image from which it was formed. I want my own dead soul to rise up and shake itself from lethargy to be the creative soul it was designed to be.
I want this because I am made in the image of a creative God and then reborn to new life in Christ. I want more because I should.
Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in You…Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 57:1, 8)