20 April 2012

Creativity as Divine

"Creative Mess" by CasseteFace
I ran home in record speed.

As I threw open the door and dashed into the house, my husband looked up from his reading, startled. I gave him a "can't-talk-now" look and hurried past him to my art studio. I grabbed my comic's storyboard and started writing, praying that the creative impulse that had just struck me would linger long enough until I connected the vivid world hovering in my imagination with the physical pencil and paper. I couldn't help but to chuckle to myself, thinking,
Aaron probably mistook my urgency for a very necessary trip to the bathroom. 

For the past few months, I had been un-inspired to do any sort of art. Every time I sat down to draw or paint I'd stare at the blank sheet of paper or canvas, waiting for something to "hit" me. So why, out of all the times I intentionally set time aside to create, did I suddenly become inspired while on my daily run on the neighboring nature trail?

For reasons I cannot explain, sudden moments that are 
pregnant with creative possibilities seize me without forewarning. These are moments that only artists, poets, and musicians can understand. When these moments come upon me, I feel so alive. It's almost as if I've tapped into some sort of infinite creative energy. It's all I can do  but to pray the moment doesn't leave me before I've managed to crudely assemble it onto paper. Even then paper can't completely encapsulate the immense imagery and ideas of the ethereal, creative realm.

Finishing up my second degree in Biblical studies, where creatively is ironically minimized and occasionally even scorned, I began to think that my interests in art and creative writing wasn't really all that important. But then I read this passage from Scripture:

Exodus 35:30-36:1
Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 32 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 33 to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. 34 And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.1 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.”

What first comes to your mind when you think about the Spirit of God coming upon someone? Do you think about Samson and his supernatural strength? Do you think about Isaiah, and his profound prophetic messages to apostate Israel? Very rarely have I ever thought about God's Spirit sweeping down upon someone for the task of creating!

God didn't need a tabernacle to house him, because as Solomon later recounts in I Kings 8:26 even the heavens cannot contain God. How much more the earth, or the tabernacle/temple? But God graciously complied with the Israelites' house. Here's what tickles me - He essentially says in this passage from Exodus, "Well, if I'm going to dwell in a house it might as well be pretty." Yahweh saw the aesthetics of the tabernacle as something of importance, even to the extent that he gifted certain people with the job of overseeing the tabernacle's visual appearance.

When someone is complimented for their work, they typically reply, "I get it from my dad," or "I come from a long line of artists." But maybe we shouldn't attribute creativity to mere genetics. Sure, Bezalel's grandmother may have been a jewelry-maker. But what if Bezalel's artistic abilities was also given to him by God, simply because God sees creativity as important and he just wanted to give this ability to him?

In ancient Greece, it was believed that a person's capacity for creativity was not a product of his own ability but was a mark of the divine. An artist was merely the vessel, or conduit, of creativity. Poetry, woodworking, and music were spawned from what they called a "muse." This muse would come upon someone and grant them supernatural ability. Thus, if someone's sculpture came out disproportionate or lumpy, if wasn't the human creator's fault; he just had a bad genius. Similarly, when a person created a breathtaking masterpiece, it was attributed to the muse.

In Roman thought the "muse" was called a "genius." Now, in our modern world, a person no longer has a genius. A person is a genius.

But maybe we need to begin thinking about creativity as the mark of the Divine. Maybe we are mere conduits of God's creative activity and his Spirit comes upon certain people to create beauty, order, vision, and joy for His Kingdom. Maybe God's Spirit doesn't just come upon warriors like Samson or kings like David, but upon artists like Bezalel and Oholiab.

People who know the Creator should be the most creative people in this world. May we surrender ourselves to the purpose of God's Kingdom so that we may become the point of contact between heaven's creative power and earth's destructive captivity.

1 comment:

Joshua S. said...

This an interesting meditation on the creativity of God, something we don't think about very much in "theology world." The creator of man is also the creator of art. Man himself is a work of art, the Lord's handiwork. It's good to know that we serve a creative God.

Have your read Francis Schaeffer's Art and the Bible? In that book, he said, "The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts... A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God."