VerticalMusic.com just published my recent article on creativity and its restorative power.
If you’re willing to comment on it directly to them, it helps them to know how people are responding to their resources.
Here it is:
QUEST FOR EDEN: THE RESTORATIVE NATURE OF CREATIVITY
By Dan Wilt
Engage your imagination with me, if you will. Join me in an ancient garden, lush and vibrant with teeming plant and animal life, pulsating and surreal in sound and color. It is twilight, and the stars are just beginning to peer through the deep blue curtain of the horizon before us. You and I blink in amazement at the pristine beauty of this innocent scene; it is somehow ours, and yet somehow we belong to its beauty. Then, a Voice rises imperceptibly all around us, gradually seeming to ripple through water, land and sky. In what must be the mother-tongue of God, now undulating through the garden, we hear these words growing in our hearts: “Let us make human beings in our own image, make them reflecting our nature so they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth” (Genesis 1:26-27 from The Message by Eugene Peterson).
Longing For Our Home
God breathes into common dust, and Adam awakens to greet the first day. Eve is drawn from his bone and blood, and the ImageBearers take their first walk through the garden, beginning their Edenic reign. The father and mother to all who live, regardless of culture, faith system or worldview – begin their journey to populate the world with other ImageBearers that will spill forth from their love, just as they spilled forth from the Trinitarian love within God. Following in suit after their Creator, the ImageBearers are welcomed to sub-create – the media of earth and heaven are at their command.
We know the story from here. A choice is made, adoration turned within, which tears the very fabric of the cosmic tapestry – and shatters the image within humankind into a million shards. No sooner does the birth of creativity occur, than repair and redemption must enter the picture.
As the broken Image Bearers of Eden, are still looking for our home at every turn, remembering toward heaven, hungry for an elusive restoration, delirious in our vision as to where we have come from and to where we are going. We are sure of this: that we don’t know how to tend, to recapture, to regain the land we have lost. With creativity pulsing deep within, passion becomes our chisel and imagination our brush as we create architecture, music, and sensual delights to remind us of God-shared glories once unblemished. Left to ourselves, our art begins and ends in humankind. Yet, not designed to create for our own glory, something within the artist is never satisfied. Our arts are designed to prophesy to us, to call us back to Eden, to lure us back to intimate conversation with God in a garden we share. Creativity is by nature prophetic, and leads us toward new vistas where both the beauties and frailties of our walk with God are exposed.
The Elements In Motion
I would like to consider four elements that are necessary for the healing gifts of creativity to flow through followers of Jesus in the world. These four elements, suggesting the elemental tradition of early Celtic Christian spirituality, we will denote by the names Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. Earth will speak of Grounded Creativity, Wind of Inspired Creativity, Fire of Empowered Creativity and Water of Communal Creativity.
Earth: Grounded Creativity
Earth speaks of grounded creativity, of Eden’s integration. Here we speak of the integration between God and ourselves, between you and I, and between I and myself. The creative spirit, in order to thrive, quests for the beauty of the garden where God looks us full in the face once more, and we, without shame and with exuberant joy, look Him full in the face in return. The creative spirit, with tentacular grasp, stretches for the ideal state of personal identity, friendship and human intimacy this side of heaven, yet is often diverted in its pursuit by the broken relational histories with which we are so familiar. We don’t know who God is, and who we are – which makes it very hard to healthily relate to others. The angry and unintegrated artist withholds worship and its creative enfleshing; the prayerful artist breathes worship in and out as one’s very air.
Be grounded in who God is, and who He made you to be. Allow the identity of God, yourself and the people around you to be renewed in you by daily meditation in the scriptures. From the center of a grounded identity, you will deeply affect others as you give not only what others need and want, but as you offer what you have to give.
Wind: Inspired Creativity
Wind speaks of inspired creativity, of Eden’s innovation. Innovation, in its rawest state, is the offering of that which is fresh and new, not because it is new to God or to someone else, but rather because it is flowing for the first time from us. Stretched between a world that regards the most recent and startling as the holy grail, and a Church that regards ancient traditions as the only valid form of sacred expression, the creative spirit must win the day by being true to God, true to itself, true to the community and true to the culture, by welcoming fresh ideas, unfinished themes and uncharted expressions into its creative products. Instead of promulgating simplistic answers in the world, truly innovative creativity recognizes that the most beautiful answer may be found in the inspired asking of an even more beautiful question.
Find the people, places and events that inspire you and press you to innovate. Drink them in on a regular basis, and allow them to stir the unique gifts within you in a unique and powerful way. Be willing both to fail and to discover as you courageously take this journey.
Fire: Empowered Creativity
Fire speaks of empowered creativity, of Eden’s passion. It has been said that insanity is to the artist what garlic is to Italian food. I would say it differently. Passion is to the artist what water is to the fish – it is the only environment in which it can survive. Even in a broken world, we still encounter the rugged beauty of the African terrain, hear the visceral turn of a word or phrase, revel in a forest sound, feel the thunder of an approaching storm, or bask in the scintillating warmth of the winter sun and are enflamed with a transcendent joy. If that is the power of a fallen world to evoke passion within, what will Eden’s colors and sounds be like when our eyes and ears and minds are clear, and it’s original beauty is amplified and restored? I can only imagine. You and I can only create out of that fired and fueled imagination, driven by the unique passions within us.
Tell me what your passion is, and I will tell you how you can help us all connect to Eden’s glory once again. What makes you strangely suffer within, with an inconsolable longing? It will stir the same longing in us if you create from the source of that passion.
Water: Communal Creativity
Water speaks of communal creativity, or Eden’s interaction. Community is that inexorable need built into the Image Bearers – the need for one another. It is a hunger for friendship, interaction and interplay together that finds its beginnings in what is called the perichoresis, the mutual indwelling of the Trinity, the circular dance of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, holding community within His breast, places creatures on the earth who cannot escape our need for someone to jointly experience our unique take on the world.
Scythian farmer/warrior/horsemen in Russia, found recently in burial tombs over 2700 years old, are clad along with their families and horses in golden vestments and breath-taking jewelry, articulating their communal penchants, perspectives, and shared views of the world. We must co-exist, not because we have to, but because something in our nature tells us we must. We must care for one another, we must tell our stories, and do so to edify and strengthen the whole. We must not only create individually, but also in community. To create from a community is to bring a more compassionate and true voice to the world than any one could ever bring alone.
“To each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good,” says the scripture. Our gifts are given to us to strengthen the “we”; use yours to aid the vulnerable and support the weak. We will use our creative gifts to do the same for you. Serve your community humbly with your creativity, and watch it light the torch of others to do the same.
We The Image Bearers
We are all Image Bearers, all creative from the very start. Our mediums are different. The soul languages we speak are unique to us, be they the idiom of music, images, words, flavors or friendships. The next time you see, hear, touch or smell something beautiful, remember that what you love about the art before you, be it a painting, a perfume or a person, is that it reminds you of Eden, it recalls you to Zion, and it reminds us of what we can be once again if we turn toward God.
The next time you put your hand to a medium, be it pen and paper, strings and amplifiers, seeds and soil, or a human life, remember that you are helping the rest of us to taste Eden’s glory once again – through the vehicle of your unique creativity.
Cheers to the reconciliation of humankind to God, and to the creative tools He has put in our hands. Let’s join Him as He stirs a yearning world through the grounded, inspired, innovative and communal creativity of His people – as He stirs in the hearts of all a longing for the friendship we were made to share with Him, and each other, in Eden.
Dan Wilt is an internationally respected worship leader, songwriter, artist and conference speaker. Based out of St. Stephen’s University (www.ssu.ca) in New Brunswick, Canada, Dan is the Director of the Institute Of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies (www.theworshipleader.com). He is passionate about investing today’s worship practice with the riches of the ancients, and the interface between the Church and culture (www.danwilt.com). Dan is also the editor of Inside Worship magazine, and serves as the Worship Development Coordinator for Vineyard Churches Canada. He makes his home in St. Stephen with his wife Anita, and three children, Anna, Abigail and Benjamin.