“Creativity—like human life itself—begins in darkness,” wrote Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. She was describing how ideas lie dormant, simmering under the surface until the time is right. But when that time comes, the words can’t not flow, the sculpture can’t not take shape. Whether a playwright, musician, painter, or seamstress, the artist closes her eyes and concentrates, her nose scrunched up and her eyebrows furrowed, and she becomes a creator—one who seeks to “forge a creative alliance, artist-to-artist with the Great Creator .”
But creativity isn’t reserved for artists. I write for a living, but I also create outside in the garden and under the lights of the kitchen stove. Out of nothing comes something—and with it, delight and wonder, ecstasy and thrill.
“Guess where part of tonight’s dinner came from?” I ask my family.
“We know, we know: the garden,” someone inevitably replies. To me, the thrill of a handful of shishito peppers and chocolate bell peppers grown from seed and tossed into a sizzling pan alongside other vegetables never gets old. Throw in a little white rice and cubes of firm tofu, garlic and ginger, soy sauce and chili oil, and Mama’s Famous Fried Rice becomes a magical dinner masterpiece, even if my children sometimes beg to differ.
I’ve noticed this kind of “creation talk” can happen anywhere—in online spaces and when I’m lounging at the neighborhood pool. It takes place at soccer games, in front-yard flower beds, and from the pulpit at the tiny church I call home. Every time, the creator points back to the Creator; the artist directs her attention to the Artist, which is to say, where it all began.
Creativity is about fully leaning into what God has made each one of us to do, as imaginative, inventive human beings.
For me, and perhaps for you as well, creativity is about fully leaning into what God has made each one of us to do, as imaginative, inventive human beings.
In Walking on Water, the late Madeleine L’Engle writes: “But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the most obvious ones of working with paint of clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of important career.”
We are image bearers of God, so “no matter our vocation or how we earn our living,” creativity is built into the DNA of our being. When I embrace this God-ordained side of my personhood, I notice a flow of creativity in the mundane moments of my everyday life. Inspiration in the garden or under the lights of the kitchen stove is profound only if my eyes are willing to see it. And it flows from me to the people around me, showing up in relationships, conversations, and even the ways we shape one another.
“Unless we are creators we are not fully alive.”
Something else happens too, though, when I heed God’s call to create: A holy, healthy fear of Him is restored in me. That’s because as an image-bearer of the great Creator, I cannot create alone. The One who knit me together in my mother’s womb works through my fingertips onto the page, into the dirt, and into the pan sizzling with the day’s dinner.
I can’t help but think of the psalmist who sat on a craggy hillside, singing songs aloud to God: “Who is the person who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose” (Ps. 25:12). Surely David, who sang his heart out to God, knew the wild exhilaration that came with bearing the imago Dei and His creativity.
Perhaps we can learn to do the same every time we do what God has ordained for each of us. When we lean into His vision, I believe we discover more of His love and goodness, more of His creativity alive inside us, and more of the holy fear that somehow holds it all together.