A few years before my mother died at age ninety-seven, she was telling me how much she appreciated the fact that I had become a missionary.
“I am so thankful that Daddy and I were able to come down to Brazil and celebrate the arrival of the Bible in the Canela language in the village at the end of your twenty-four years there.”
We reminisced about that wonderful event, then she asked,
“Do you remember the time, long ago in Holland, when you were a little boy, maybe seven years old, and I asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up?”
“No,” I said, “I don’t.”
“Well, I remember it very clearly. You thought for a moment and then you said, ‘Mischien wel een zendeling,’” Maybe a missionary.
Then the occasion came back to me. I had been avidly reading a series of books of stories of Dutch missionaries in Indonesia. I vividly remembered a picture in one book of a naked boy my own age writhing on the floor of a hut as an evil uncle whipped him. And I remembered the stories of people changing when they learned about Jesus and started following Him.
All this to say that I have no idea who that author and artist were, but they did use their God-given creativity to write stories and draw illustrations. God used them to impact the mind and heart of a little boy. They made a life-long impact. An impact that resulted in my wife and I using our God-given creativity to live and work as linguists/Bible translators among a people group that knew nothing about God and His love for them.
One of the readers of last week’s column on creativity, What Makes Us Human? responded with
“Hmm, maybe I’m more creative than I thought. Not in composing music or painting pictures, but in solving problems. Especially computer programs. Always something new to learn to figure out. It keeps my mind sharp too, even at old age.”
Creatively solving problems. Yes, that is being like God. He created us to be micro-copies of Himself, doing what He does. I have a little sign I take out of my drawer when my desk and office are particularly messy, that says,
“By Godlike, Create Order Out of This Chaos.”
It’s not easy expressing the creativity God built into us. Our western culture is still heavily influenced by the industrial revolution and the military mindset for mass training which demand that human beings fit into a standardized, one-size-fits-all way of doing things.
Another reader wrote that a teacher ripped a page out of her writing notebook because her capital “T” wasn’t exactly right.
We need to buck this trend towards standardization. We need to be cultural salmon, swimming upstream, against the cultural flow to where we can live out our creativity.
“In what way are you expressing the creativity God built into you?” I asked a group of Christians and, after some coaxing and coaching, some of them mentioned a few activities that demonstrated their creativity. Then others got excited and told of many more things that they did creatively and could do more of.
- Several women cooked creatively.
- A couple of grandpas did all the voices when reading stories to their grandkids.
- Both men and women did stitchery, embroidery, crocheting and knitting and improved or adapted the patterns creatively.
- Memory development was mentioned, not just Bible memory, but memory for faces, for names, for jokes and even for quotes from movies.
- Someone added that he also had creative ways of giving much of it away.
- Several young people expressed their creativity through acting.
- Carpentry, computer programming, gardening, mechanical repair, were mentioned by quite a few guys.
- And, of course, others mentioned the things we usually think of as creative work like playing musical instruments, composing music, singing, painting, and writing poetry.
So, in what ways are YOU expressing the creativity that our Creator God built into you?