The Gift We So Often Neglect - N. J. Lindquist

The Gift We So Often Neglect

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus — our Creator’s most precious gift to us. But we’ve been given other gifts, too.

At the heart of Christmas is the celebration of our Creator’s most precious gift to us—Jesus— who was born as a normal baby. But God has given us many other gifts, including one we often neglect.

Maybe more than neglect. It sometimes seems as if we re-wrap it and hide it in the back of a dark closet. Or never open it at all because we’re afraid to see what’s inside. 

Creativity is one of the most precious gifts our Creator gave us.

God is, above all else, Creator. Everything that exists—from a drab piece of dust to the most glorious rose—came straight from God’s imagination. When Adam and Eve were made, they were both formed in the Creator’s image, capable of both imagining and creating new things. To underline this reality, God gave Adam the honor of naming the animals that had just been brought into being.

Yet, when I talk to many Christians, I don’t see excited, active creators, bubbling with ideas and plans. Instead, I see questioners who seem to doubt their own abilities, and who seem to be waiting for leaders who will give them permission to dream. Sometimes I want to scream.

When we resist creativity, we resist God.

We laugh at the old, “But we’ve always done it this way!” complaint one tends to hear in meetings whenever someone suggests doing things a different way, but the truth is we do resist change—and therefore creativity—all the time. And of course, the problem is that by resisting creativity, we’re actually resisting God, refusing to open one of the precious gifts we were given when we were made in God’s image.

I’ve seen this happen so often, in many organizations, including churches. Creative people, who simply want to use their talents and gifts, have ideas that don’t fit in. So they wind up either getting into arguments with the leadership, wandering around the fringes, moving on, or just giving up.

Creativity often leads to change. And many people fear change.

Why is it like this? I believe it’s because, in our humanity, both as individuals and as groups, we prefer things to be done in ways we understand and can control. And leaders may feel constrained to keep things the same rather to make changes that would make others uncomfortable.

Madeline L’Engle, in her book, Walking on Water, says, “We are afraid of that which we cannot control; so we continue to draw in the boundaries around us, to limit ourselves to what we know and understand. Thus we lose our human calling because we do not dare to be creators, co-creators with God.”
Every person is needed. And every person’s creativity is needed.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us that the body of Christ will only become mature “as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16, NIV). That “work” involves seeing every one of us functioning as God intended, making full use of our creativity and bringing life to the unique dreams God has placed in each of our hearts.

People who exude creativity are often looked down on by other Christians. It’s as if there’s something wrong with them for wanting to colour outside the lines or try new ways of doing things. But they are necessary.

My hope is that every person might be encouraged and empowered to use their gifts to the very best of their ability, and for the good of all, without fear or embarrassment.

What does your gift of creativity look like? 

Have you opened and embraced it yet? Does using it bring you joy?

I have two suggestions for this Christmas season.
  1. After we thank God for the gift of Christ’s birth, but before we open the gifts our friends and family give us, how about we each spend some time thinking about the creativity we have inside us, and asking our Creator what we should do with it? 
  2. And maybe, later on, we can share our ideas with others who are embracing their own creativity, and look for ways we can help each other become everything God created us to be.

I have a feeling 2020 would be a good year for all of us to try some new things.  

First published December, 2013. 

  • Belinda says:

    And I think I have to buy your “theme music” album! :)

  • Belinda says:

    Encouraging and true!

  • This was an excellent post, N. J.! My creativity has been pushed down so many times at church as well as at work that finally, I saw no other recourse than to drastically cut back church ministry and walk away from corporate/academic life – for my own health and peace of mind. Now I pursue God’s call on my life without the external restraints that sapped my energy and creativity.

    • njlindquist says:

      Sally, I can relate. The problem is we seem to need to put people in definable boxes instead of allowing God to work. Good think Joshua and Gideon et al didn’t have to convince someone else that blowing trumpets and the like was the right thing to do. :)

  • osborne2029 says:

    Too many church leaders seek to have their congregation fit into convenient cookie cutter moulds of ministry. There needs to be a greater acceptance of the fact that many people do not fit into merely one mode of ministry. Many of those with gifts in teaching, writing and singing, for example, are encouraged to specialize in one of those three areas. In doing so much creative expression that would enhance the mission of churches is sadly lost.

    I came from a denomination in which the range of my abilities in teaching, writing, singing and song writing were not used as much as they could have been. Many leaders sought to say I was a writer while others said I was a singer and others said I was a pastor or counsellor. They didn’t know where to place me. They sought to make me into someone I am not nor will I ever be. Yet, while it is easy to lay the blame on particular leaders I think the problem is more of the way many Christian leaders are trained that they are to have those they lead specialize in one mode of creative expression. This happens in careers as well because it is taught in human resource development to have your employees trained in a specific area, which will it is believed lead to higher profits for the company or organization..

    If these attitudes are to change then there needs to be a transformation in the way leaders are taught as well as fundamental structural changes to a person’s job description. For those with a diversity of talents to offer, perhaps that person could become the creative director for a ministry or a company, which would allow the use of the full range of their abilities.

    Creativity then rather than being discouraged is encouraged and fostered.

    What would you do to have more of a spirit of acceptance of one’s creative abilities?

    • Very well said, Kevin. I remember one moment at a board meeting where I implored leadership to help find a way where I could continue to lead Children’s Ministry – or take a lesser role – and still have the opportunity to do music ministry as well. Instead of accommodating me and allowing me to exercise my giftings in both areas of ministry, I was flatly refused. It was only later that I fully understood what was going on. In being relegated to the “unseen” ministry to children down in the basement, their “star” musicians could have the “stage” all to themselves. What was the result? I left the children’s ministry, and soon after, that church itself. I voluntarily stepped back from any kind of ministry for a long time. So not only is squelching creativity unfair, it is damaging to individuals, and in the end, is an affront to the Lord Himself.

    • njlindquist says:

      Kevin, I think a lot of it comes down to the leader’s feeling they have to be in control, when in reality it’s God who is in control. Our job as fellow-believers is to love, encourage, hold accountable when asked, and do all the one anothers, but not contain or direct.

      NJ

  • Very good point, NJ! What is missing from the Kingdom because we haven’t risked exploring what we were designed to be and to do? And how can we encourage one another to change this?

  • Great reminder of the gift inside. Love the suggestion at the end and will be spending some time reflecting on it today. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • Love the reminder of this truth, NJ. Thank you. Merry Christmas!

  • Bobbi says:

    A very convicting blog, NJ. On the flip-side, perhaps we can suppress our propensity to squelch creativity in others. How often have I shot down someone’s idea simply because it wasn’t something that fit into what I found familiar?

    For that matter, how often have I dumped my own idea because others weren’t comfortable with it? I

    ‘m going to share this blog especially for my boss – a visionary who is continuously having to push rope (her term for those staff who just won’t get on board!)

    New years resolution, then: Don’t quench the creative spirit – in others, or in myself!

    • njlindquist says:

      Oh Bobbi, so true. We often squelch ourselves and one another.

      I’ve seen it happen so many times – especially in churches.

      And yes, we’re constantly second-guessing ourselves.

      It’s as if we feel everything has to be perfect – no mistakes allowed. An attitude Which of course ultimately kills creativity.

      NJ

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