The other day I spent a few hours painting.
If I had said that years ago you could be sure I was referring to something productive like painting a room in the house. I would have been redoing ill-conceived decorating choices or cleaning up scuff marks from our family of small children. It would have been purposeful. Needed. Practical. There is simply no way I would have been able to sit, surrounded by craft-store acrylics and a mason jar of brushes, to simply to create something. Not when there were so many other, more important things that needed my attention. But that is exactly what I did, and I loved every moment.
Made to Create
Spending any appreciable amount of time just creating says a lot about how I’ve changed over the years, to be sure, but it says more about how my theology has changed. You see for a long time, I’ve viewed the Christian life as a sort of to-do list. A relationship with the Lord, absolutely, but defined by acts. I viewed my status as a Christian woman, a wife, a mom, a sister, a friend, all as being determined by what I did and by what I brought to the table. There is an aspect of obedience to the Christian life, what we do does matter, but for a long time that was all there was for me. Do more. Try harder. Hope it’s enough and probably do a little more just to be sure. It took me years to finally understand that we were created for more than just doing—we were created to create.
All the way back in the first chapter of Genesis, God declared that he was going to create people with a very specific purpose; they were going to bear his image. Being made in the image of God is the heart of who we were created to be and means that every person everywhere has intrinsic value, worth, and dignity. And that’s huge! Apart from anything we do, any roles we fill, or boxes we check, we are loved. We are valuable. Being made in his image, I realized, was not about what I did, it was about who I was.
Called to Create
But the stunning thing about being made in God’s image is that it doesn’t stop there. Not only does it declare our worth, but it also includes a calling. A calling to represent him to the world around us by using the unique gifts, talents, passions, abilities, and skills he has given us to point others back to him. The way we do that is different for each of us because we are all different, but the core remains the same; we are called to imitate God. We are called to think like him, act like him, and love like him. It’s not simply a “WWJD” thing, it’s an imitate every single facet of his character thing including, I finally realized, his creativity.
God is a creative God! He formed all things; created color and texture and smells and tastes. The intricate details of a butterfly’s wings were his design and the sparrows sing out his compositions. He is the creator of story and verse. He paints the sky with more colors than eyes can see and whispers lyrics of hope that only a heart can hear. He loves to create and has invited us to do the same. To the woman who loves to paint—he’s inviting you to paint. To the woman who writes—write. Singers should sing. Composers compose. DIYers, DIY to your heart’s content! Whatever your gifts and talents are, wherever your interests may lie, do those things. And do them as imitators of God.
Your art doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be “good”! But if your heart longs to be creative, you are being invited to do so. Sure, there will be work that needs to be done, and sometimes our art will need to be a hobby for a time, but do it still. Creating things is a means by which our hearts, and the hearts of others, are blessed. It brings joy and healing and hope in a way that few things can. It’s a way in which we honor our Lord, worship him, and display his creativity to the world around us. So grab a brush, or pen, or whatever, and come because you were created to create.
About the Author:
Elizabeth Garn is a writer, speaker, wife, mom, and geek. When she’s not picking Legos off the family room floor, she’s writing about everyday theology and talking about what it means to be made in the image of God. She writes for ChristandPopCulture.com, The Gospel Coalition, and blogs at www.ElizabethGarn.com. Her first book, Freedom to Flourish, will be out this fall. You can follow her on twitter @GarnElizabeth.