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On creativity

Rev. Greg Rapier looks at his son’s chicken-scratch drawings and sees something beautiful — holy, even. Perhaps creativity, whether it is in a child or adult, points to something greater.

Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

My son recently started drawing. He’ll take a crayon, and after a few minutes trying to insert it into his mouth, he’ll press it against the paper and look with wide-eyed wonder at the mark he leaves on the page. Then he’ll giggle.

In the end, we’re left with abstract chicken-scratch that, before I was a father, I would have tossed into the trash. Now, I can’t bear to throw it away. Something about it’s beautiful — holy, even.

In the first passages of Genesis, God reveals that part of God’s divine nature is to create. God creates something out of nothing, birthing from the void everything we know — the sky and the stars and the sun and the land and the plants and everything else in the universe. It all culminates when God creates us in God’s image and breathes life into us.

Photo submitted by Greg Rapier.

When we create, we are tapping into that element of God-within-us. We are participating in a shared moment with God, expressing that most sacred part of us.

That’s what I see when I look at my son’s scribbles. That’s what I hear when I listen to a good song. There’s a reason a good movie can stir or convict you in the same way as a powerful sermon. There’s a reason so many people donate generously to art galleries. There’s a reason, when we’re especially moved by someone’s artwork, we’ll sometimes say we’ve had a “religious experience.” Something about great art taps into what it means to be human and, therefore, what it means to house the divine. There’s something about great art that can expand our consciousness, shatter our worldview or even affirm our deepest-held longings. Some art does all three at once.

But what about the rest of us? What about those who never went to art school or sang in a choir? What about those of us who work 9-to-5, go home, eat, sleep and repeat? Does this God-given gift just lay dormant and unexpressed?

I don’t think it does.

I once heard a story of a plumber who considered each service call an act of honoring God. He knew all the tricks people in his profession used to plunge a few extra bucks from their clients, but he refused to participate in that sort of thing. Honest prices for honest labor — simple as that. A woman came to him with a clogged drain (I won’t tell you where), and she’d been working all morning to get it out before she gave in and called the plumber. The plumber walked around the small room, assessed the curvature of the drain, and plunged free the mess in about 15 seconds: “That’ll be ten dollars, Ma’am.”

The woman couldn’t believe it. “How’d you do that,” she asked?

The plumber shrugged off her question, gave a gentle smile. “It’s an art.”

Yes, it is. Surrounded by toilets and human waste, that plumber expressed God-within. And the woman with the clogged drain caught a glimpse of it.

Take a moment to examine yourself. What do you take joy in? My guess is there’s an element of creativity involved. Creativity – and the divine expression that comes with it – isn’t limited to the fine arts. You’re creative when you garden. You’re creative when you cook. You’re creative when you dress. What you consume on TV or read in a book is creative. Even negotiation, peacemaking and acts of service and justice have an element of creativity. Woodworking, building, playing, dancing — they’re all expressions of God’s creativity and love. They’re all holy.