The Practice of Creating

Dea Jenkins Part 7 of 13

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Table of contents

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Stepping into Creativity

In the coming weeks we may feel as if our country is awakening from a slumber. As quarantine mandates lift, many of us will tentatively step into the outside world unsure of what we will find. Uncertainty, despair, and hopelessness have become familiar acquaintances. All the while, the Easter season reminds us that the full resurrection cycle bids that we move through our seasons of death and into perpetual life. The budding of springtime flowers and the songs of birds are constant reminders of God’s redemptive creativity. They remind us of God’s persistent invitation to collaborate with him to creatively address the challenges of our time.

To receive this gift of creative collaboration we must first acknowledge that regenerative creativity exists within each of us. Creativity is not merely reserved for professional artists and craft makers, but rather for every being who bears the imago Dei.

My own journey as an artist did not begin until my early twenties. I had never considered myself creative and could not have fathomed the incredible world of making into which God was leading me.

My path to living a creative life came through reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Through this book I learned that “I am a channel for God’s creativity”1 and that when I create I am simply allowing God to create through me.

So, the question is not whether we are creative. It is rather about discovering how God’s creativity best flows through us and how it is that we make this flow possible. In essence, creatives are those of us who learn to hear God’s guiding voice and humbly choose to follow it.

The prophet Jeremiah offers a compelling example of what it means to listen intently for God’s voice, particularly during distressing times. The vivid, tactile imagery in Jeremiah 18 depicts the work of a master potter. “So I went down to the potter’s house; he was working on the potter’s wheel. But the piece he was making was flawed while still in his hands, so the potter started on another, as seemed best to him.”2

How should we respond when we look around us and discover that the undeniable strangeness of our time looks a lot like the lumpiness of gray clay? How do we release reverence for the now unformed pottery that used to shape our lives? What do we do when we discover that we are in the throes of a creative upheaval by the great potter?

Ironically, we are often certain of the clay-made structures we build and inhabit, never quite considering the fragility of their existence. For a lot of us, the suddenness and harshness of a global pandemic has revealed that many of our social structures and individual rhythms were not as strong or as healthy as we believed them to be. If anything, the pandemic has magnified our uneven rhythms and systems.

Perhaps the jolt of this time will force us to scrutinize the fractures of our pre-COVID–19 existences more thoroughly, and to reshape what now appears formless. How might we posture ourselves to hear more readily God’s creative solutions to our personal and collective crises? How can we reconcile failures in personal relationships and rhythms? In what ways might we reimagine the social systems that have failed to care for the least in our midst? How do we transform a collective neglect of nature into collective acts of care and stewardship? We discover answers to our questions as we align our hearts with God’s creative dreams.

Life is always calling, beckoning us to never surrender to thoughts of impending doom, but to instead repeatedly step onto the path of promise. As creators we cannot neglect to search inscrutably for the inevitable hope found in the forms of beauty present with us and seek to draw them out. The true heart and joy of the Gospel is not only that Jesus died for us, but that Jesus died that we may fully live.3

Though this pandemic has upended life as we formerly knew it, we are not left without the gift of co-creating something new. Our joyful honor is to daily catch the promptings of the creative Spirit. Through whisper or sudden insight, God is always leading. When we open ourselves to God’s creative guidance we will discover solutions to the personal and collective challenges of our times.

How to Practice Creating

  • Thoroughly read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The activities in this book will help you develop your ability to listen for God’s guiding voice on your creative journey. When we recognize that “creativity is God’s gift to us,” we live out of the awareness that “our creativity is our gift back to God.”4 We may also bravely enter into this process of creative discovery with other people. Reading the book with another person or in a group can give us courage to expand our creative horizons.
    • An activity called “Imaginary Lives” in Chapter 1 of the book had a significant impact on me. Cameron asks, “If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them? . . . Whatever occurs to you, jot it down. Do not overthink this exercise. The point of these lives is to have fun in them–more fun than you might be having in this one. Look over your list and select one. Then do it this week. For instance, if you put down country singer, can you pick a guitar?”5When I first completed this exercise performance artist was near the top of my list. Though I had very little experience in performance art, doing this exercise inspired me to start writing performance pieces. A few years later in 2019 I had several opportunities to tour with my own performance art group! These opportunities never would have come if I had not had the courage to first admit that I secretly longed to try out new things, and then to take smalls steps to pursue that dream.
  • Follow curiosity and delight. Both the flashy moments of a brilliant idea and stubborn dreams contain keys to the Spirit’s urges within us. Therein lies creative solutions, artworks, songs, books, businesses, and more that God desires to create through us. By following our curiosity and delight, we are stepping closer to the joy that the Spirit desires to share with us.
  • Share your creations. Art is ultimately communication, and the act of making is incomplete until it is shared. While it is appropriate to spend time reflecting and creating in solitude, to communicate is to extend one’s self and one’s knowledge and awareness to another. So, share your creation, whatever it may be. Be open to new interpretations of what you have created, allowing each new insight to expand your awareness of God’s creativity.

 

Untitled
12 x 12
watercolor and ink on handmade pastel paper
Dea Jenkins

Footnotes
  1. Julia Cameron. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (New York: J.P. Tarcher/Putnam, 2002), 36.
  2. Jeremiah 18:3-4 (CEB).
  3. John 10:10.
  4. Cameron, The Artist’s Way, 3.
  5. Ibid., 39­–40.
Dea Jenkins is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator. She has a dual MA in Theology and Intercultural Studies with an emphasis in Theology and the Arts from Fuller Seminary. She is a Fellow of the Martin Institute's Cultura Initiative and a Fujimura Fellow with artist Makoto Fujimura. www.deajenkins.comInstagram: @dea.jenkins
Listen to all parts in this 12 Spiritual Practices for the Pandemic series