Consumerism & Creativity

As you may have noticed, I’ve been struggling a bit with consistency in posting on this blog.  There are a lot of reasons; a new job, caring for my dad as he moved to an assisted living facility, a much larger yard to tend, and just the etc of this season of life. 

            None of that has taken away my desire or heart to write.  That has been a love of mine since 3rd grade when I got a bunch of Big Chief writing tablets for my birthday.  It’s a key expression of my wiring as a creative.   But I’ve always wanted to write something  worth saying, something with substance or wit or wonder or truth or encouragement, something that will spark a reader to come there with me—all of which requires more than merely putting my opinions in words on a page. 

            And that is the core of the struggle.  It’s the sense of creative energy that has been missing.  Some would call that the classic writer’s block, but that’s too simplistic. It’s a certain mental, emotional or even physical weariness that has been my companion on the difficult journey of the past three years or so.  But it’s even more than that.

            Creativity requires a certain spaciousness to life.  There is a space in the mind, the heart and the spirit where imagination takes root.  There is room to wonder, wander and dream.  Room to think, question and ponder.  Room to see things in a different light, shift the lens, turn the perspective from landscape to portrait or vice-verse, or change the order or the color scheme. Creativity requires imagination and imagination requires space.

            And I have not been giving my creative heart enough space.  

            I could call it busy-ness or demands on my time.  Maybe.  But I suspect it is more a matter of choice about how much I am putting into the available space around my imagination.  

            What is going there?

            A mass of information, news events, perspectives and opinion from across the globe is now instantly available to me through books, newspapers, television or the internet on my laptop or cell phone. It never stops flowing and is updated constantly; 24/7/365.

I am also wired as a learner. I am curious and interested in a lot of subjects, so…I can get interested in a stream of information very quickly.  I’ll follow links, read alternate viewpoints, etc.  Some might say I have a form of technologically driven ADD.  I insist I simply have a high capacity for quickly switching mental gears. But it is a relatively new and growing challenge to wisely process the massive amount of information presented to me every day. And I don’t think I’m alone in this.

To put it another way, it has become increasingly easy to be a constant consumer of other people’s creativity.  To fill the limited space in my mind and spirit with what others think about the world, God, politics, nature, church or daily life.  And if I fill the space inside me with their creativity, my own imagination is suffocated.

It is, in a sense, a form of creative sloth.  Now, that’s a hard thing to confess, because I work really hard at my calling and responsibilities.  But if I am content to sit back and take in the creative work of others—while making no contribution of my own, it is a form of laziness.   

Why does any of this matter to me, or to you?  Creativity is not limited to those with an artistic bent for music, photography, writing, drama, graphic arts or painting.  It is a fundamental aspect of being human.  Just listen to the opening scenes of the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1) So, God is a Creator.  But then God says, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness…so God created man in his own image…male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27). A fundamental part of being human is to be creative, because that reflects the essential character of our Creator.  We obey God’s command to “have dominion” by engaging our part of the world thoughtfully, truthfully, lovingly and creatively in a way that is consistent with our unique, God-designed self.  There are no cookie-cutter people; there are creative expressions of the heart of God unleashed into families, schools, businesses, communities, governments and churches everywhere.

But the stakes are even higher than that for those who are followers of Christ.  At the moment of our conversion, God the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our souls. He works to transform us to be like Jesus.  But beyond that, He has gifted, enabled and empowered each Christ-follower for a unique role in the advancing the borders of God’s Kingdom in the world.  Each genuine Christian (with no exceptions) is “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them.” (Eph.2:10)  In other words, each one of us is called and responsible to contribute our unique creative input to the mission of Jesus in our homes, families, schools, communities, and more. 

For the church of Jesus, creativity is not an option. 

Now, as I wrestle with this for my own self, I wonder how much God-given creative energy is lying dormant in the souls of Jesus’ people?  How many souls that need Jesus in Shelbyville and among the nations are waiting for the unique perspective, new approach or “what if?” dreams of one Christian who has been silent for most of their faith life? 

What’s the problem?  It’s consumerism again.  In the west, we have largely developed a life of following Jesus based on watching others perform religious things – largely on Sunday morning.  We consume Jesus friendly material at an astonishing rate—CD’s, movies, books, magazines, services, events, conferences and more.   That’s fine as far as it goes, but it increasingly squeezes out our ability to authentically deal with the world that does not yet know Jesus.   And it makes us Christian sloths, too lazy to do our own work of spiritual formation.

And even more, we clutter our souls with deified sports (take your pick—Cards or Kats, Tiger or Phil, Reds or Braves), entertainment splashes like “Twilight” (take your pick—Team Jacob, Edward or Bella) or politics (take your pick—Fox or MSNBC, Beck or Olbermann). We saturate ourselves with information about our favorites, watch their programs religiously, and talk about them incessantly. In both cases, those who claim Jesus often display considerably more passion,  inventiveness, cleverness, creativity and energy in making their case or winning the point in a discussion on these issues than ever show  up in discussions of Jesus or the gospel.  

(Thus endeth the rant)

I am simply, deeply concerned that we are cluttering the limited space in our souls and minds with so much earthly information that we have no space left for creative thinking about fulfilling the Great Commission.  Creativity requires imagination and imagination requires space.  Hear the word: “If you have been raised with Christ….set your mind on things above, not on things that are on earth….take every though captive to obey Christ.” (Col. 3:1-2, 2 Cor. 10:5)

Creativity is not an option.  It’s part of being fully human and faithfully Christian. 

So join me in prayerfully asking this crucial question:  What do I need to remove from the input flow into my soul and mind that will free up space for the Holy Spirit to spark fresh creativity in me about following Jesus and serving His mission in my world? The answer and adjustments that result may change your faith, your life, and the parts of the world you touch.

I’m hoping it will improve this blog—and  a whole bunch of other things around me.

 

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