Creativity: the Gift We So Often Neglect - N. J. Lindquist

Creativity: the Gift We So Often Neglect

At the heart of Christmas is the celebration of God’s most precious gift to us—His Son. But God has given us many other gifts, including one we often neglect.

Christmas giftsMaybe more than neglect. It sometimes seems as if we re-wrap it and hide it in the back of a dark closet.

What am I talking about? The gift of creativity.

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

Yet, when I talk to most people, I don’t see excited, active creators, bubbling with ideas and plans. Instead, I see questioners who seem to be waiting for others to lead, who doubt their own abilities, and who seem to need permission to dream. Sometimes I want to scream.

It’s as if we’re afraid of any kind of change.

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 he gave us when He made us in His 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. Leaders can also feel constrained to keep things the same rather to make changes that would make others uncomfortable.

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. 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.”

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). 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.

There are no unnecessary people or fringe people in God’s eyes.

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.

I have a suggestion for this Christmas. After we’ve opened the gifts our friends and family give us, and thanked God for His Son, how about we each spend some time thinking about the  creativity we have buried somewhere inside us, and asking God what He wants us to do with it?

And then maybe we can share our dream with some of our friends and look for ways we can help each other become everything God created us to be.

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Belinda

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

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    njlindquist

    Belinda, John Arthur has some great (and creative) music. And a new CD coming any day now.

    Reply
Belinda

Encouraging and true!

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Sally Meadows

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.

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    njlindquist

    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. :)

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osborne2029

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?

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    Sally Meadows

    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.

    Reply
    njlindquist

    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

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Janet Sketchley

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?

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    njlindquist

    Great questions! The answer to the first one, we may never know. But the second one, we can do something about.

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      Janet Sketchley

      One of the things I appreciate most about my writing group memberships (including The Word Guild!) is the opportunities to encourage and be encouraged in our creativity.

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Saundra Dalton-Smith

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.

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    njlindquist

    Thanks, Saundra!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours, too!

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Vonda Skelton

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

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    njlindquist

    Thanks, Vonda.

    Merry Christmas to you, too!

    NJ

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Bobbi

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!

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    njlindquist

    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

    Reply
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