The spirituality of creativity
You’re a creative person.
Just think of how many creative arguments popped into your head just now trying to convince yourself that you aren’t a creative person.
No, you can’t paint like Michelangelo. But you picked the ideal color for your living room (and wisely used a roller on the ceiling).
No, you can’t compose like Mozart. But you’re really good with some original let-it-all-hang-out humming when you’re feeling great.
No, you can’t write like Harper Lee. But you’re widely known and appreciated for your annual Christmas letter/email.
Need more convincing? How about the less-than-flattering names you called your little brother (or big sister) when you were a kid? Or the way you take an ordinary tuna- fish sandwich to the next level by stirring in … but that’s your secret recipe, right?
But aside from all that, again, you’re a creative person. There’s no doubt about it. Why the certainty? “God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). You were made by God who is — to say the least– very creative.
Just as he gave you his ability to love, he infused you with the desire and ability to make something or change something for the better. Including making something of, or changing something in, yourself.
Then, too, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes:
“Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead” (No. 357).
No one responds to God the exact same way you do. No one loves him as you do. No one can take your place in those very particular and unique aspects of the relationship you two share. And your creativity is a part of it.
Chipping at the stone
Now, don’t go getting a big head here. You’re not inventing yourself. Your Creator came up with a blueprint — a plan — for who he created you to be and what he wants you to do.
A key to becoming better aware of his sharing that with you is, throughout your life, spending time with him. Listening to him and to others he places in your life to help you get the task done.
No, “task” isn’t the right word. Meet the “challenge.” No. Solve the “puzzle.” Nope. Grow in and through the mystery. That sounds better, but what does it mean?
In a way, like Michelangelo — here referring to him as a sculptor — you spend your years chipping away at superfluous rock to discover, to bring to light, the real you. The you God created you to be.
Chipping away selfishness and sin. Chipping away doubt and (this is a hard one) laziness. Chipping away all the other slivers and bits and chunks that halt or hinder a saint from emerging. The person — the mind, the body and the soul — God created you to be: Saint (insert your name here)!
A core part of what remains is creativity. A central means of achieving that goal (of getting rid of the worthless rock) is creativity. Small wonder there’s a spirituality to it. It’s a gift, a joy, a tool custom-made to fit your hands, your talents, your situation, as you work on “you” and draw closer to God and eternity with him.
A few suggestions:
1. Admit you’re creative.
God didn’t forget to include that part when he made you. Thank him for it. For all the times and all the ways you’ve been able to use it over your life up until now. And for the opportunities you’ll have to use it as you continue to grow in wisdom, age, grace and … yes, creativity.
2. It might help to take a “creativity inventory” of yourself.
Don’t be afraid. There are a lot of examples.
For instance — just to prime the pump here — maybe you were good at making up games or silly songs as a kid. Maybe you had an “invisible friend.” No, in this context that doesn’t mean Jesus. Although, yes, that’s sweet. And true. Ditto with scooching over in your seat to make room for your guardian angel. (If, however, you named him/her, that was pretty creative.)
Also consider how, as a student, as someone on a school team or in a school play, as a Girl Scout or Boy Scout, and on and on, there were ways you were creative.
So, too, with college or your first job. With your wedding. With your marriage! With raising children. (Procreation — talk about creative!)
As a boss or staff member. (Worker bee.) As an employer or employee. As a business owner. (My, doesn’t that take creativity.) As a hobbyist.
As an adult son or daughter, sibling, aunt or uncle, godparent, coach, neighbor or parishioner. As … whatever your profession, vocation or avocation might be.
As a retiree, caregiver or care-receiver, grandparent, widow or widower.
3. Recognize that creativity makes life better.
Notice how when you were at your creative best it didn’t just help you and bring you joy, it did the same for others. It made your life and their lives better.
4. You are uniquely creative.
Yes, you probably know — or know of — many people who are far more creative than you are. Good for them. God be with them. Our mutual Creator didn’t just see to it that there are many parts in one body (cf. Rom 12:4-6), but many differing (in countless ways) gifts from one Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:4-11). As St. Paul sums up: “… the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”
Your God-given, custom-made gift of creativity is just perfect for you. Truly, it couldn’t fit you — and serve God, others and yourself — any better.
Bill Dodds writes from Washington.