As the trees around me begin to turn to brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow, I find myself wondering about creativity. I imagine that we’ve all heard the idea that human creativity reflects our Creator God; we’re made in the image of the one who imagined and brought into being the splendor of an autumn sky. And I think there’s truth in this idea that the drive to create is hardwired into human beings (into our very biology, if you consider the drive to procreate).
But being creative also means exerting control. Ordering one tiny corner of the world to reflect your ideas, your personality. Bringing beauty out of chaos. (This is why organizing is, for me, an act of creativity!)
Maybe it’s not so surprising, then, that in the last few months I’ve picked up a crocheting project I had set aside, started teaching myself to knit, and discovered the amazing and adorable world of amigurumi.
Last fall, I heard Emily P. Freeman, in her lovely podcast The Next Right Thing, recommend taking up the practice of making things. I started an afghan because I do enjoy making something tangible, but then — life happened. I got bored. I didn’t love the pattern, but I thought I’d invested too much time to start over.
And then, of course, life really happened: schools closed, my church stopped meeting in person, gatherings with friends were cancelled, and in a matter of days it felt like life ground to a halt and then fell apart. And I fell apart, a little bit, too. For most of the spring and then into the summer, life was about maintaining, about not descending into complete chaos. I used all my energy making sure that my family took baths, ate some veggies, and remembered that we all loved each other.
But now, I’m ready (most days) to bring some order out of chaos, instead of just treading water in the storm. I’m doing some writing. I have a new position at work that gives me the freedom to plan and implement projects that help shape my congregation into Christlikeness.
And I’m turning yarn into something useful. Nothing fancy: a blanket, some dishcloths, the world’s most adorable baby octopus. An infinity scarf for my oldest, using up some yarn I’ve been carrying around with me since college. I’m tackling a winter hat next, and then socks.
Am I mirroring part of God’s nature? Probably.
Am I using the tools that I have to bring some order, some beauty, some tangible good into a world that with problems that seem entirely beyond my influence, let alone control? Absolutely.
Maybe, then, creativity isn’t just a reflection of God. Maybe it’s a grace that God has granted us, a gift that helps us focus on what we can do to bring good and beauty into the world.
If you, like me, are feeling overwhelmed by the state of our nation right now, maybe it’s time to take Emily Freeman’s advice and create something. Grow a basil plant on your kitchen counter, write a note to a friend, learn a new skill (or dust off an old one).
And I wonder if we will find that this creativity, something that can feel pointless or escapist, is the very thing that can anchor us in what is good and true and beautiful, that can remind us that even in the midst of chaos and unrest God is always already here, doing the slow, creative, life-giving work of reconciling all creation to God.