Photo by Dragos Gontariu on Unsplash

Are you creative?

September 21, 2023
Author Polly Berrien Berends wrote about a visit to a school to talk about being an author and about creativity. She said, “I asked how many of them were good artists…In a kindergarten class nearly all the children would have raised their hands. In this fourth-grade group of about sixty children, five hands were raised. Isn’t that tragic?” In a group of sixty adults, I expect the number would be even smaller, maybe one or two. Berends adds, “Writing and art are not forms of self-expression, but of divine expression.” (Gently Lead, HarperCollins, 1991, pp 146-148)

A colleague of mine, Rev. Brian Dixon, once presented a theological paper where he made an excellent case that the image of God was creativity. It was so different from what I learned about the image of God, I’ve never forgotten this idea. But think about the creativity present in the beginning of Genesis: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) As the Creator creates, he creates humans in that same image.

Are you creative? Are you a good artist? How might God be expressing divine creativity in and through you?

“I’m not creative,” my mother always used to say. Her brothers created art in their spare time, and her sisters had wonderful taste in decor and clothes. However, Mom was brilliant with words in speaking and writing. Even though she was a lifelong reader, she never saw her own gift with words as creative. Like my mother, I’m a word person, too. I’ve thought about preaching, speaking, and the writing I do as creative work and truly spiritual work. Somehow my mother didn’t pass down her inhibitions about creativity to me. She always gave encouraging feedback on my school writing assignments when I was growing up. I’m grateful for her support. And I’m sad she couldn’t see her own creativity.

A colleague of mine once presented a theological paper where he made an excellent case that the image of God was creativity. I’ve never forgotten this idea.

I’ve come to see experimenting with new forms of creativity as a spiritual practice. While I wouldn’t say I am a good visual artist, I’ve found that it can be fun to make small efforts to create easy art. During the pandemic shutdown, I created a collage on a 4×6 card almost every Sunday morning. I couldn’t go to church in person, but I could create something pleasing. It was a prayerful practice in a tough time. I kept the ones I liked best and send them out as cards. I still make a collage occasionally.

My friend, Jill Kelly, has used creativity to support her recovery from addiction. I got the 4×6 card idea, a suggestion from her drawing teacher, out of Kelly’s book Sober Play (3 Cats Publishing, 2013, p. 65). In the book she includes dozens of easy and specific creative ideas to try, from collage to drawing to writing to dancing to gardening.

Here are a few simple ideas to consider:

– Move something decorative in your house to another place so you notice it more.

– Write a two-line poem. (It doesn’t have to be good.)

– Draw something you see. (It doesn’t have to be good.)

– Take a photo with your phone of something you notice on a walk, or anywhere. (It doesn’t have to be good.)

– Get an adult coloring book and some crayons (maybe your kids’ or grandkids’) and color it with your favorite colors. Or print out a page from the many coloring pages online. For an example, visit here.

Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

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