by Jo Kadlecek
I was scrolling through Twitter recently, admittedly looking for a diversion to the writing I was supposed to be doing, when I came across a tweet from singer/songwriter Melanie Penn. It was a virtual—but gentle—slap: “What took 200 years to build needed one day to burn. Creation is hard. Destruction is easy. I think about this all the time.”
I think about it too, because as a writer, I know intimately that creation is hard. It takes discipline and vision; it can be risky and misunderstood, and it often means we’re entering the realm of the unknown in an effort to bring some real good to the world. We might fail.
But here’s the thing: we cannot not create. Sure, it might stretch us and challenge us, but because we’re made in God’s image, created to make work that honours the Creator of the Universe, we are creative beings, all of us. We bear the image of the One who in the beginning (Genesis 1:1) made the heavens and the earth and every living creature in between, calling it all “good”. As Dorothy L. Sayers wrote, “The characteristic common to God and man is the desire and the ability to make things up.”
Of course, you don’t have to be in a relationship with your Maker to be creative. The world is full of musicians and actors, engineers and chefs, poets and gardeners who are as agnostic as they come. Yet, they can’t help creating lovely works. They, too, bear the image of their Creator, and the world is often better for their contributions.
The difference for those of us who follow the Word Made Flesh is that we realize our gift is not our own; every word, morsel or song is linked to our Creator. Too often, though, I hear Christian women diminish their creative efforts, tossing them into the ‘not very important’ categories while elevating ‘the arts’ as ‘real’ expressions of creativity. Maybe the culprit lies in the fact that our culture—and the church—tends to value certain vocations—or ministries—above others. Maybe some well-meaning adult crushed our creative dreams when we were children and we’ve coloured within the lines ever since. Or maybe we’ve just not thought enough about what it really means to be created, formed and made in our Good God’s image.
Because when we begin to reflect on such an extraordinary truth, our lives can’t help but change. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that, “we are his workmanship (poemia), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Whether it’s the “good works” of a song during worship or a casserole for our sick neighbour, a flower arrangement for the kitchen table or a sermon for Sunday, we’re created to reflect God’s workmanship.
Consider how a walk on the beach or stroll under a clear night sky stirs in us an intuitive sense of the hand that shaped the world. All creation points to God’s artistry. Why else would there be sand dollars or pelicans or full moons? Look closely in any direction on any continent and you’ll see examples of the Creator’s wildly extravagant palette. As Psalm 19:1-3 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.”
Creation, then, reveals to us God’s bigness as well as his excellence and desire for our good. He provided a world that not only aids our bodies but feeds our souls with beauty. Why? Love! “The whole difference between construction and creation is that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists,” wrote British author G.K. Chesterton.
The Lord of Love didn’t have to create such “good works”. He could have instead made every plant the same colour, every creature the same shape, every food the same texture. Instead, he made beauty in a grand and incredible symphony. And each time, “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1).
Not only are we given the good gift of the creation around us, we’re loved in the midst of it! After all, Christ the Son, “the radiance of God’s glory, the exact representation of his being, who sustains all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3) poured Himself into a body of bones and skin and fingernails for our sake, drawing us to Himself by choosing to die a brutal death on the cross.
And what did the Crucified Jesus do when He met his friends after he conquered the grave? What he’d always done: loved them with his words and deeds. He served them, touched them, walked with them, cooked breakfast for them on the beach, even sang with them, all creative expressions from the Creator himself.
When the reality of this truth captures our hearts, we can’t help but respond in wonder, humbled by his generosity, inspired at his greatness and all the more committed to giving every creative expression back to him, no matter how hard or how long it takes.
Jo Kadlecek is the author of “Woman Overboard: How Passion Saved My Life” (available from Upper Room in audio and print) and is the creative director for Anglican Deaconess Ministries in Sydney, Australia.