Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! – 2 Corinthians 5:17
Creativity is an elusive idea to many of us. We often associate creativity with art—if I cannot paint, sculpt, or make music, then I am not creative. But creativity is much bigger than the traditional concept of art. If we explore creativity using the story of God’s creation as our guide, we may come to a greater understanding of creativity and of ourselves as a new creation in Christ.
Can creativity be defined? Here is the concluding paragraph of What is Creativity Anyway?, an article by artist Jan Phillips:
Personal creativity is not about intelligence or information. It’s about inspiration, from the Latin spiritus, meaning “breath, courage, the soul.” Creativity is about being fully alive, living courageously, or as the painter Joan Miró says, “Expressing with precision all the gold sparks the soul gives off.” When is the last time you felt fully alive? What is it that calls forth your courage and trumps your fear of sharing your soul? Knowing this is the key to discovering the creativity that is waiting to be expressed through you.
(Jan Phillips, What is Creativity Anyway?, 6/12/2010, huffpost.com)
Now do you know what creativity is? Unfortunately, creativity’s elusiveness allows for people to talk in endless flowery language about inspiration, humanity, expression, discovery, gold sparks of the soul, innovation, and talent. Explanations like this seem to further hinder our understanding of creativity. But Phillips does touch upon one element that keeps people from being creative when she asks, “What is it that calls forth your courage and trumps your fear of sharing your soul?” While premature judgementalism keeps us from trusting our own new ideas, it is no definition of creativity.
To define creativity, let’s look at what creativity is not:
Discovery – Finding something that already existed is not creativity. Newton’s understanding of gravity when the apple hit his head is a discovery, but he did not create gravity.
Innovation – Innovation is when an idea or tool is used in a new or expanded way. The way the tools or ideas are used may be new, but nothing new has been created.
Talent – Talent is a natural aptitude or skill for performing a specific task. If I play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, I am simply doing what millions of others have done before me. My ability to reproduce an artform does not make me creative. The creative act was writing Moonlight Sonata.
Simply put, creativity can be demonstrated by producing something that never existed before. Creativity occurs when one takes two fields of knowledge and finds a previously unknown relationship. Something new and meaningful is found in that intersection of ideas. In the 1990s, cell phones and personal computers existed but it was the intersection of these two ideas that created the smart phone.
Let’s dig deeper by looking at the creation story found in Genesis 1:1–2:20. We know this story well, but I invite you to read it again and consider these ideas.
- Creativity happens in steps. In the creation story, God took care of the basics first, before getting to the complex. It takes time for creative ideas to develop. Whether it was days or millions of years, creation took time. First the earth was created, then light to see the earth, then atmosphere, then wet land and dry land, then vegetation and so on. One idea builds on the previous ideas. Creative people learn to look back before they look forward, building on what came before.
- Wait to pass judgement on your creation. God decided AFTER each creative process that it was good. The reality is that what we create will not always be good. All that God created was good, but that’s because He is God. Still there is a lesson to be learned about waiting until something is finished before passing judgement. One of my favorite snarky sayings is, “Fools and children should not see things unfinished.” If we pass judgement on every step of the process, we will either never finish or never create anything beyond its most simplistic form. Our choir members have had to learn this skill. When we start a difficult piece of music, the first time they sing it, it sounds pretty horrible. If we were done, you would be right to judge—but we are not finished. There is still lots of rehearsing to do. Often our favorite pieces are the ones that took the most work. Wait until your work is finished before deciding its value, otherwise you will become very discouraged.
Here are a few phrases creative people remember to help them suspend judgement:
• Work faster than your doubt.
• Better done than perfect.
• Do first, think later.
• Do, or do not, there is no try. – Yoda
• Just Do It! – Nike
• Be wrong.
• It’s always too early to quit.
- Creative people are driven by what resonates with them. What we create reflects who we are. It is a way of exposing a deep personal part of ourselves. It’s what God did then, on the sixth day, He created man and woman. He made them in His image. There are volumes written about what this means. For our purposes, let’s just simply say there is something unique God created in humans that is important to God. Let’s call it our soul. Our soul reflects Who God is. We are made in His image. We know that creating man and woman in His image was special to God because at the end of the sixth day, He did not call it good—He called it VERY GOOD!
- We were created to be creative. In Genesis 2:19-20, God brought all the animals to the man he created and told the man to name them. Man’s first task given by God was to be creative!
I hope looking at the creation story has given you insight into the creative process. Let’s finish by seeing ourselves as a new creation. In John chapter 3, Nicodemus has an interesting conversation with Jesus where he asks, “How can a man be born again (recreated)?” Jesus’ response is well-known: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
We are recreated—born again—when our lost lives intersect with the Spirit of God through the redeeming act of Christ. Being born again means to be created anew. Something that did not exist before is now created! Second Corinthians 5:17 says it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!”
When the march to eternal death intersects with the saving grace of Christ, not only is a new thing created, but the old has passed away. We are now already on our way to dying, but as 1 Corinthians 15 says, death has lost its sting. The death of our previous selves is inevitable and is now of no consequence because God has recreated us.
This is a powerful scenario of the creative license of God through Christ. We now know that our bodies are not created in God’s image, but our souls are. Our bodies remain the same, our soul is created anew—not changed, not different, but new.
Understanding the creative process helps us to understand the work of God. A blank canvas, an empty sheet of manuscript, a piano—these are all things waiting for someone to create something new. We have the opportunity to stand before God, the past wiped clean, and allow Him to make in us a new creation.
by Jeff Faux
Director of Sacred Arts