Down We Go: Cultivating Creativity

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It’s time to quit measuring creativity as talent and celebrate the act of creating, instead.

“God is heaven and art.”  5-year old girl at a Refuge art event

Everyone’s an artist.

God, the most brilliant creative artist of all time, put his image in us from the very beginning.

Creativity often gets buried beneath life, brokenness, circumstance and negative messages. Eventually, if we fail to cultivate it, we lose connection with it.

One purpose of the body of Christ is to help uncover God’s image in each other—to draw out the good, to call people to be who they are created to be, and to restore dignity, beauty, and purpose in others’ lives. 

On the downward path of Jesus, this becomes even more critical because of the amount of brokenness that’s present in people; a central part of our role in relationship with each other is to become dignity-restorers, people who call out God’s image in others.

I love that Jesus embodied dignity-restoration and empowers us to do the same.

As we become women who extend love mercy and compassion, welcome pain, honor doubt, diffuse power, practice equality, and pursue justice as Jesus-followers, others’ (and our own) dignity is restored.

There is also another beautiful and important way we can fan dignity into flamethrough helping people draw out and express their natural creativity.

To create is to directly connect with the image of God within. 

The Sufi poet Rumi says, “Inside you is an artist you don’t know about.”

The creativity that is in each person is a natural reflection of God’s creative image inside of us. When it’s stifled, buried, stuck, or ignored, not only do we miss out, but the world misses out, too.

When we have a space for creativity to flourish, we become more and more complete. Through creative expression, we are participating in God’s ongoing work of redemption in this world.

Subtly or directly many have been taught, “We’re not artists,” or “We’re not that good at creative things.” This usually isn’t the original message we were taught as kids. For most of us, when we were younger, we probably didn’t think twice about creating, making, trying, risking and participating. Watching my kids is so inspiring because I see slivers of how free I used to be creatively.

Over time, though, many of us grew older and began to edit ourselves, hold back instead of participate, evaluate and critique ourselves instead of freely sharing. Slowly, many of us became closed to creativity.

We began to take ourselves too seriously.

We began to lose our freedom.

And we get a lot of messages that say creativity is only for “artists” (as in ones who are trained in it) and that we don’t have anything to offer.

Unfortunately, many church systems we’ve been part of have directly perpetuated this kind of closed-door policy to creativity because they’ve adopted a professional, “only the good ones get to play” mentality. Often, average musicians don’t get a chance. Pretty people are the ones who sing on stage. Art shows are reserved for the talented and screened for submissions.

We’ve forgotten that the beauty that’s in each other–whether it’s deemed good enough, or not, by a man-made measuring stick–needs a place to be nurtured, a forum in which to be revealed.

Part of the downward journey is becoming people who cultivate creativityour own and also the creativity in others.

It seems like one of the most helpful ways we can begin to cultivate creativity is to quit measuring creativity as talent. We have all kinds of imaginary rules about what makes someone an artist and what doesn’t.

Here’s what I keep learning: We’re all artists. Every single human being on the planet. It just looks different for each of us. The way to call it out is to stop comparing ourselves or assume that only the best and the brightest can play.

Most of us default toward self-criticism. When challenged to do something that requires creativity, many of us tend to put a disclaimer on it—”This isn’t that good; I am not that good of an artist; mine is not nearly as good as his or hers.” You name it and we can find a way to self-deprecate! I tested this theory recently at a group experience facilitated by a friend. When she asked everyone to share their very simple pieces, the majority found ways to minimize, compare or somehow put down their work.

It’s so telling!

Shame, fear and lack of confidence invade so many our lives. It robs us of so much freedom.

The Kingdom of God is a place to break the bonds of shame, fear and lack of confidence. 

At The Refuge, our faith community, we try to cultivate a spirit of creativity in all kinds of little and big ways. We encourage people to try things they’ve wanted to try. We host open share creative nights where anyone can play. We call each other out of our creative comfort zones. Each and every time, I see the bonds of shame, fear, and low self-confidence break and God’s image reflected. Not only in others, but in me, too.

In the words of a five-year-old at one of our open share evenings, God really is heaven and art.

_____________________________

My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear:

  • What are you learning about the healing power of creativity these days?
  • How can you cultivate it in your own life and draw out God’s image in others, too?
_____________________________

Image credit: bhollar

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids. Her most recent book Faith Shift can be found on Amazon.com
Kathy Escobar

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Kathy Escobar
  • I’ve gotten some healing from my writing, both from my blog and elsewhere. Some revelations about events in my life would never have happened without me writing about them. The brain makes connections it wouldn’t normally make, I think.

    When I write fiction, certain ideas come up repeatedly, which is usually indicative of something in my life that needs to be resolved, or some issue that I’m passionate about that I need to investigate further. For instance, one thing that comes up repeatedly is characters who feel they are wasting their lives, a feeling that I struggle with. I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until I was almost 30 and I already had a full time career as a software engineer which takes up much of my time.

    A topic that I’ve found very interesting to write about is PTSD. I’ve never experienced it, or even known someone who has, but I find it interesting to write about and it’s something for which I would like to raise awareness.

    • hh, so glad you are writing! it does get things flowing that we didn’t even know were there. i am going to do a series in june on my blog called “what it’s like” with stories from all different angles. i have more than a few friends with PTSD and hoping that one of them can share. rough stuff & important for those of us without it to understand. thanks for reading, i am really glad to know you out here.

  • I love this! Creativity is so important. As I watch it flourish in my kids, I do wonder what happens to us as adults. Where does it go? Why do we become so inhibited?

    Writing has become my biggest creative outlet. I have fallen in love with blogging. Pinterest has also given me some inspiration to not only write but create images with text that become snapshots of my writing. I have found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable outlet.

    Where I practice drawing out this image with others most often is with my kids. My son designed a super hero costume. He drew it out on multiple pieces of paper so I could see the different angles. It was so fun to watch. When he was done, I sewed it for him the best I could according to his directions. Then he put it on and said, “It’s so fun seeing my imagination come to life!” Amen.

    • so fun! i’d love to see some of these images, too. i will have to see if i can find you on pinterest (i’ve gone on like 5 times total but so many interesting & fun things out there). i’m kathyescobar. thanks for taking time to share, always inspiring.

      • Hi Kathy- I just followed you on Pinterest, so you can find me there. If you don’t go on it very often, I use the images I create on my blog http://everydayawe.com, so you can also just click over there. Thanks!

  • Kathy, thanks in part to your rebuilding after deconstruction I was incredibly inspired to create. This weekend, Brandee and I recorded a new song and put a video to it. It’s called Wake Me Up Inside, http://youtu.be/xlXeCIrX3r8.

    Thanks for all your encouragement!

    • travis, that is so beautiful. thank you so much for sharing. made me cry!

  • Dear Kathy

    I can’t get enough of re-thinking how we imagine life. Thank you for running ahead. You have unlocked something in me with this post. I’m kinda miffed that I’ve removed myself from the canvas or the piano or the lens because I wasn’t the best or the brightest. I love what you say that it’s time to re-imagine our understanding that “only the best and the brightest can play.” I am ready to play …

    Thank you, beautiful friend.

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