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26 April 2017

Did God create us all creative?

Did God create us all creative?

Illustration by Emily Downe. Find out more about Emily's work and watch the short animations and stop-motion clips she produces on her website emilydowne.co.uk

Let's take the humble elastic band. How many ways can you think of to use it? I'm betting you will not have thought about it before: to hold a cut up apple together so it won't go brown; create a gripper to conquer stuck lids; prevent your cutting board from slipping; open a door easily by wrapping it around both handles; cushion a remote control so it doesn't scratch a table or slip off and my personal favourite – to clean a paintbrush by stretching it across a paint can to wipe excess liquid off the brush. Paint would splatter everywhere if I did that! How many of those uses have you tried?

So many people say: "I'm not creative," or: "It's not my thing." When asked about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbour as yourself." If living like that doesn't require a bucket-load of creativity, then I don't know what does.

God has given each of us one precious life. If we have asked Him into our lives, then we also have the Holy Spirit of God within us, to help us. We know we are all broken human beings, selfish at heart and inclined to worship anything other than God Himself. We need a creative God to help us create a life that glorifies Him.

Lives don't just happen. We make decisions all the time. Will I allow God to help me create a life that honours Him? How do I want to live? What do I want my life to embody when it finishes? Will my life be a pleasing aroma to my God when I meet Him face to face? Challenging, creative questions that should inform all our decision-making. Our task is to create a life of obedience and worship.

Creativity involves imagination. To 'see' where God is moving and to follow Him. We then see things 'event' in our lives and in the lives of others. Prayer has to be one of the most creative expressions available to us. Prayer brings into being that which has not previously existed.

Many of us who dismiss creativity as something to do with 'paint brushes and dancing with flags' fail to recognise its power in our own lives. Things 'event' in diverse ways. My husband, reflecting on a challenging meeting, remarked that out of nowhere, he had found words for a fresh perspective. A creative Holy Spirit 'eventing' wisdom out of his mouth.

I walked with six-year-old Esther in the woods. I picked up an acorn and explained that it could grow into a huge oak. She ran to her mum and said: "Mummy, mummy, I have a tree in my hand." What things 'event' in your life? How is God creating in you and through you?

But what about Bezalel and Oholiab, I hear some of you ask? At least I hope you are asking! These two gentlemen, introduced in Exodus 31, were filled by the Spirit of God with wisdom, understanding, knowledge and all kinds of artistic skills. Why? To create a structure for God to inhabit – the Temple. Some are called and anointed to create in many and diverse ways. As a long-standing creative, my hope is always to make something beautiful for God – work the Holy Spirit will inhabit. When work is enjoyed by an audience, it allows Him to 'event' in individual lives. I remain unsatisfied, but beauty remains my aspiration. I encourage, I mentor, I stand on the side-lines and cheer, I pray.

Indulge me for a moment as my heart cries out for a fresh outpouring of God's creativity in the arts. The arts can provide a way for the "eyes of our hearts to be enlightened" as Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18.

The artist, the maker is a person committed to "a trade which can change hearts, mould minds, worry the entrenched, upset the tyrannical and nudge history," as Benedict Nightingale, the theatre critic, once said. A trade is about becoming a skilled worker. It's about taking yourself seriously, committing to learn from others. How much time will we give God to learn our craft? 10,000 hours is the number often quoted as the minimal time needed for mastering a craft. It requires commitment, energy and courage for the long haul.

This issue of idea introduces a shortstory competition on page 14. We need creative voices to speak into our society. Fresh parables for 21st century people. The challenge for the creative is to fashion beauty that embodies something of heaven. A creativity that acknowledges the spiritual dimension that exists, inhabited by perfect love. It will take a life-time of learning. It's painful, exhilarating, energy-sapping and worship-filled. Creation cost God everything. Can we expect it to cost us less?

Ravi Zacharias said in his book A Shattered Visage: "The moods and indulgences of a nation have been generated by the popular writers, entertainers and musicians of the day. Those who harness the strength of the Arts, mould the soul of a nation to an extraordinary degree, affecting and changing the way people think and act to drastic proportions."

Back to the elastic band. A humble, utilitarian and flexible creation. My final favourite use is The Diversion. Fire an elastic band across the room to hit something that will amplify the sound. Your victim swivels to the sound. A perfect moment to catch them unawares!

God made us all creative. Be inspired to rediscover His creativity in you. 

Ann Clifford's creative life has involved playwriting, screenwriting, film-making, theatre directing, special needs teaching, speaking and leadership. Her book Time To Live: A Beginner's Guide to Saying Goodbye is published in the Autumn. She loves God, life, laughs, and people, particularly her husband (Steve) and married children. Her friends and her church are very important to her and way cheaper than therapy. 

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