After I was diagnosed with Wegener’s, I went through a period where the most I could do during the day was stumble to the couch for a change of scenery. I read light fiction or watched movies, and that was about it. Nothing creative, nothing requiring any sort of energy output. Thankfully, that period didn’t last, and I slowly started to look for low-intensity activities to occupy my time.
I never considered myself creative in any sense of the word — so when someone suggested I try scrapbooking, I laughed at them.
But the idea took root . . . and while I never did much actual scrapbooking (I only finished about ten pages in my wedding book that I started about ten years ago!), I ventured into card-making, finding joy in cutting and gluing paper together in an artistic fashion. My cards were far from professional, but as my first foray into a creative skill, it provided enjoyment both for me and for the recipients (or so I’m told).
I’ve since moved on to other artistic pursuits, like learning how to draw and use watercolors and do Scripture lettering. I’ve fallen in love with the last, and fully accept my role as an lettering artist — although I certainly still have a lot to improve with it. But I’ve also learned to see my creative skills at work in things like running a home, managing correspondence for our ministry, writing books, and even pursuing seminary training.
In other words, all art is creative work — but not all creative work is art.
I think I was confusing the two all those years . . .
The thing is, we are all called to be creative, because we are all made in the image of the great Creator. He has called us to cultivate the earth and exercise dominion over all living things, and those commands require that we be creative.
How can you plant a garden or decide how to use its fruits without creating a plan or creating options? How can you care for animals without creating new roles for yourself (pet owner, hunter, etc)? How can you fulfill any responsibility without creating new processes, new routines, or new goals?
The good news is, being creative does not require any artistic ability!
- The mother who runs a home must be creative in planning schedules, setting boundaries for her children, decorating and cooking, and juggling all her various responsibilities.
- The computer programmer must write his code in such a way that creates new sequences for the machine to follow, or else he has not created anything new but simply replicated a pre-existing program.
- The teacher must be creative in planning lessons, exploring and combining teaching methods, training and rewarding hard-working students, and correcting poorly behaved students in an effective manner.
- The factory worker must be creative in caring for their physical ability to do their job well — you can’t work an assembly line if you’re having a hard time staying awake.
- The healthcare worker must be creative in knowing how to approach or handle different types of people, and adapting their learned knowledge appropriately to different medical needs.
- The office manager must be creative in applying his organizational skills to determine the most effective method of communicating for that particular office.
- The CEO must be creative in leadership, figuring out how to manage and delegate to group of very diverse people for the ultimate success of both company and employees.
We all create processes, routines, or methods for our jobs (whether paid or unpaid). We all must figure out how to best juggle various roles and responsibilities, without failing miserably in any of them. We all must effectively adapt prior-learned skills and academic knowledge to our current situations.
We are all creative in some manner.
In doing so, we reflect our Maker — the very first creative being. He was the One who established order out of chaos to make something new for the good of others. He was the first Entrepreneur, so to speak. Have you ever thought of it that way before?
Granted, His creating and ours are entirely different in motivation and implementation. Our acts of creation are fraught with risk, prone to selfishness, and vulnerable to natural laws — while God is completely omniscient, holy and pure, and transcendent above every scientific or physical law.
Jordan Raynor’s new book Called to Create (affiliate link) gives some interesting food for thought on the idea of God as the First Entrepreneur, identifying the ways that role was reflected through each member of the Trinity (a unique but biblically-based perspective!), and connecting that to His invitation to us to continue creating in this world:
“God created us to be co-creators with him, to do ‘the things that God has done in creation — bringing order out of chaos’ to create new things for the good of others.”
Here’s the crux of the matter: everyone is called to create, or be creative, for the purpose of glorifying God, loving others, and making disciples.
We cannot separate creativity from those things. And in order to accomplish them, we must find the place where our skill and ability intersect with the need of others. Raynor says: “In order to best glorify our Creator and love others, Christians should do the work we are best at, work that God has equipped us to do exceptionally well . . . If we choose work we can’t do well, that’s a poor reflection on God, whose character we are called to image to the world.”
This doctrine of creativity is developed throughout the rest of the book by focusing on four key elements:
- Calling — considering God as the First Entrepreneur, the theology of work, and embracing our call to create.
- Creating — understanding how the fact of our “Caller” changes the why, what, and how of our creating.
- Challenges — balancing hard work and trust, handling disappointment and failure, and renewing our minds.
- Charge — fulfilling the Great Commission through our unique calling, stewarding profit wisely, and creating for eternity’s sake.
He cites examples and shares wisdom from over forty different Christian entrepreneurs — from the founders of Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger, to content creators such as Lewis, Tolkien, and Bach. He shares personal examples too, since he is (what he calls) a serial entrepreneur. He’s learned some of these lessons the hard way, and wants us to benefit from his mistakes.
Called to Create is not a dry examination of theory or a trifling record of stories: it is a biblically-based, richly-developed, practically-applied look at how and why every Christian is called to be creative.
It is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of creativity, partly because it’s one of the few written from a worldview firmly rooted in the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. I would highly recommend to anyone considering the purpose of vocation, the motivations for work, the reasons for pursuing various occupations, or how to create with eternity always in view.
Do you consider yourself a creative person — why or why not?
Disclaimer: I received this book for free as part of the Baker Books Bloggers program, in exchange for sharing an honest review. All opinions expressed herein are completely my own.