Creativity in spirituality

by Rev. David Lindrooth

Right in the very beginning of the Bible we have a statement about creativity and why it’s so important and relevant in our lives. In Genesis, it says, “God created humanity in his own image.” (Genesis 1:27) That means every person was created in his image. If we are in his image, and God created us, isn’t part of his image being creative? It makes a lot of sense. We believe in a human God. To be human means to be in God’s image because God is the quintessential human. Part of being human is learning to be creative. It’s our permission to be creative. When I think about this, I get goosebumps.

How does God’s model of creativity work in our lives?

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:38)

It’s as simple as just making an effort.

We were talking about this in a sermon writing team, and someone said, “The way I conceptualize it is that you just make space for God to come into your life and watch what happens.” I was amazed to hear that.

A while back I started experimenting with my preaching style. I realized that if I was intentionally praying for God to crack open that spiritual door so that light could shine into my preaching, amazing things would happen. Just open the door and incredible things start to happen. Oddly enough, it feels like it isn’t me. It’s like this painting experience where I’m working on a picture and all of a sudden there’s a person staring at me and I’m thinking, “Who is this person?” It’s a wonderful feeling. The same thing can happen with preaching, with engineering, with planning a date. It can happen on a hospital visit or in a conversation with a friend. It can happen when you’re unloading the dishwasher. Believe it or not, creativity can happen whenever we ask for it, and start making space for the Lord to be present.

I want to reference Steve Jobs. He’s not renowned for his theology, and he is somewhat of a problematic character in some respects, but he did give us the iPhone and he worked with some very creative people. Steve Jobs had remarked at one point that he noticed when working with creative people that those people didn’t feel like they could take credit for anything they came up with. They almost felt embarrassed or a sense of discomfort if someone praised them for coming up with a magnificent invention. Steve reflected on this and realized that the creative process isn’t the human being creating something out of nothing. This is reflected in New Church theology – the idea that nothing can come from nothing.

Creativity really is somebody observing, thinking, and being able to make connections between different concepts, different objects, and different ideas. Then, that new grouping of what’s already out there becomes the creative moment. It can become a new product or a new painting or something nobody has ever seen before. That to me is an accurate reflection of New Church theology about creativity, and it’s worth thinking about.

The way I see it working spiritually is that God puts affections in our hearts. That is a gift exclusively from God. These affections are so deep and so spiritual they can’t possibly be called our own even though they feel like our own. Angels have them in heaven, we have them here on earth, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful gift that God gives us: the ability to feel things. It’s actually those affections, the more they’re connected with God, that are making the connections between different ideas and different thoughts and allowing the connections to come up so that we see them in a different way. And behold, there is a new creation. We are not creating it ourselves. It is a work of God that is coming through us. And yes! We are suddenly acting and operating in the image and likeness of God. So it’s a “give and it will be given to you” kind of experience.

Part of the message is making space for God, being willing to make that space. But when he comes do you have the courage to do something? Do you have the willingness to bring it out? To allow it to change the world? Because God is constantly there, and he is constantly filling us with his life and creativity. It’s something that is always there. All we have to do is open up to it. As for me, I don’t actually care if I’m well regarded as a painter. My hope is to be comfortable just allowing that creative process to happen in my life. How can this creative process be brought into your life?

This passage reminds us who God is and what he’s constantly doing:

“Since divinity is inexhaustible splendor, would it simply keep it all to itself? Could it keep it to itself? Love wants to share what it has with others, to give to others what it can.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, DP 324)

That really is the creative process at work in a person’s life, that we open ourselves up to that love. We experience it in some concrete way through making connections with ideas and thoughts, and formulating a new awareness that never existed before. And then we have the courage to share.

Steve Jobs is credited with saying, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Are you crazy enough to think you can change the world? Creativity is to be willing to change and have the courage to change because God is giving you something different to communicate. And it could be as simple as standing in a room, and hearing a message where God is saying, “Walk across the room and introduce yourself to that person over there.” That is an act of creativity.

When we’re willing to listen to those messages and act differently because there is this gift within, the world begins to change. Imagine if you wipe that all away, and everyone is a conformist and nobody wants to step out of line, nobody wants to say anything different or do anything that would draw attention to themselves or anything like that. Then you have a flatline culture. Nothing different. Yet change in our world is so desperately needed.

Maybe it starts with a painting. Maybe it starts with writing a letter. Maybe it starts with doodling. Maybe it starts with redecorating your home or just choosing a pair of pants, or whatever. Those are small things, but it starts with learning to listen to that challenging voice from God that helps us build a better world. And God calls us to be in his image and his likeness so that each of us can act individually to help bring his life into this world in a new way. And through that individualistic action over and over and over again, God brings ability, perfection, joy and a sense of peace that no one can experience on their own. It’s a sense of communal articulation of God himself. And that is deeply joyful. So start with the small things. Start today. Start tomorrow. Just create that space to listen. What is that voice from God in your mind? What do you hear and how can you act on that in a way that creates beauty in this world?

The above was extracted from a sermon delivered by David Lindrooth at NewChurchLIVE. To watch the full sermon, click on the video in the sidebar.

David Lindrooth is the director of General Church Outreach, supporting the international growth of the New Church. He also enjoys painting water colors and playing guitar.

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"If someone possesses humility they are able to accept good from the Lord, since in that case they have been parted from self-love and the evils which stand in the way of accepting it."

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