Another inspiring visit from some lovely people led to some *alright* illustrations… and some really helpful thoughts on creativity and character.
The main thrust of this meeting was to develop solid plans, building on the ideas from the first get-together and turning them in to realities. Personally, I think this was really productive, and I hope some of the things that we discussed go ahead. It’s been great to have chances to both think outside of the usual constraints, and to then bring these ‘blue sky’ ideas back down to earth, to logistically bring them to life.
With all this said, I think my main takeaways from the afternoon came from the introduction, where we spent a bit of time reflecting on the story and character of Jonah, and how this relates to life in church as creatives and communicators.
We saw that God only asked Jonah to use the things which he already had, namely his feet and his mouth:
The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
Jonah 1:1-2 (emphasis mine)
It’s a cliché that ‘God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called’, but far too often we use ‘I’m not gifted enough’ as an excuse not to just get on with it, whether consciously or not.
We considered how we can often ‘hear’ or be vaguely aware of something that God might be wanting us to do, yet we choose not to ‘listen’ to it, either ignoring it or maybe getting as far away from it as we can, as Jonah did.
It could be that we simply don’t want to do what God asks of us. Possibly we worry about logistics or consequences, with fear, or perhaps our ‘inner critic’ holding us back. Chris Goswami recently published a brilliant post on this over at 7Minutes, go check it out (then come back, ‘cos I haven’t finished).
Whatever the reasons, we see from Jonah’s life that God won’t stop calling! When Jonah finally listens, and goes to Nineveh, the people there listen to his message and repent – it’s here that he gets the sulk, and we see more of his character. There’s another challenge for us here.
When we get different results to what we expect, positive or negative, we need to get over ourselves and let go. Whatever happens, the fruit belongs to God, as He is the one who planted, grew and watered it – we need to entrust it to Him.
The reason this can be a sore point? Our self-worth is so often tied up with what we’re doing, rather than the one we’re doing it for.
Our self-worth is so often tied up with what we’re doing, rather than the one we’re doing it for.
This leads on to my first little sketch:
It is, of course, Godly to invest in the gifts God’s given us, and to seek excellence by doing the best job we can. However, it’s so easy to be disappointed with the results of our creative efforts, even when they’re praised by other people, because they don’t live up to our own expectations.
Conversely, it’s also pretty easy to let praise go to your head.
Either way, we shouldn’t be looking for total fulfilment in how our efforts turn out, though it’s not wrong to take joy from them.
Similarly, spending time on creative projects can be inspiring and affirming, just as it can be incredibly frustrating when we don’t feel we have ‘enough time to give to them’. Yet whilst these endeavours are good things that should be encouraged, we shouldn’t be looking for ultimate satisfaction in them.
If nothing else, these things will never actually meet our needs and our longings – nothing we do will ever totally fulfil our creative desires – but Jesus invites us to look to Him for our refreshment:
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
The creative pursuit, however satisfying or exasperating it is right now, can be likened to an unquenchable thirst. But Jesus offers us living water, which will mean we never have to thirst again.
The irony of all this is that if we find freedom from our creative frustrations by looking to God to meet our desires, we can take real joy from knowing He smiles on our creative efforts, and we can work for His glory rather than to seek our own.
Time for another sketch, I think:
Our creative talents are all gifts from God, and should be used for His glory, which in turn will be a witness for good to others. The focus should not be on ourselves, or even on the creative abilities themselves, but instead our Godly character should shine through.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
For all the gifts in the world, and for all the amazing creative work, if our attitude in producing it doesn’t reflect the attributes Paul lists above, they are worth nothing. This compassion is something he famously elaborates on in the ‘If I have x, y and z awesome things… but not love, I have nothing’ of 1 Corinthians 13 (excuse the rather ‘street’ paraphrase).
Moreover, whilst this is a personal responsibility, encouraging this type of character in our creatives should be something the church is seeking to do. We should be actively helping creatives to create but we should also be looking to support and care for our congregations Spiritually. Cue final sketch:
Obviously this isn’t limited just to creatives! We should be discipling all of our members, breeding Godly churchgoers by providing accountability and pointing to the Word. But we also shouldn’t be neglecting the huge potential for outreach and blessings in the church that can come from encouraging Godly creatives to use their gifts for Him – encouraging one another, and building each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11) both creatively and Spiritually.