Brave Enough to Create

“You can’t blame your equipment. You can’t blame your lack of time. You can’t blame your upbringing. Either you’re willing to steward the gift God gave you by stepping into the ring and fighting for it, or you spend your life in training, cashing in excuse after excuse until there’s no time left, no fight left, no song, no story.”

Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark

Sometimes these “journal entries” are reflective, thinking about past lessons God has been showing me through the daily drills of life experience. But some of these entries are present tense, reflecting the current “wrestlings” of my soul and the stuff God is teaching me today. 

Like this one. 

In the context of creative works, I’ve heard writers, musicians, and artists talk about how hard it can be to put their works out into the world and why. I’ve heard excuses and counters to excuses. I’ve heard people claim to be uncreative. The funny thing is, all those same excuses apply to non-writers, non-musicians, and non-artists too. I guess they’re all human excuses. 

We’re great at justifying our lack of involvement in taking a stand for the Kingdom no matter what we do, whether we’re solving accounting puzzles or sketching a mountain. Fear’s a reason. So’s the frenetic pace of our lives. So’s our lack of resources. So’s our self-esteem or lack thereof. So’s…

So it is. Whatever reasons we come up with, we’re really great at justifying a lack of moving forward on something God has asked of us. 

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It’s possible to know all the right answers, to have all the head knowledge about something. Personally, I’ve heard all those excuses more times than I can count. And the counters to them, too. 

Funny, it hasn’t stopped me from using them myself. 

I love creativity itself, don’t get me wrong. And I love the idea of doing things for the Kingdom of God. But I’m busy. I don’t have the right equipment. And my personal pièce de résistance, I am not good enough to submit this thing, this work, this entity, this action, for public viewing by God’s people. 

I know the counter to that excuse too, if I’d actually believe it. 

Sometimes it’s brave to just be still and not do things. But other times, the most courageous thing we can do is to be brave enough to create. 

An Act of Identity

I had the privilege of attending a truly extraordinary writers conference this last week, with a main theme centered around the concept of identity. Most if not all of us have heard (repeatedly) how we’re not what we do. We’re not our successes or our failures or our ideas or the stuff we produce. Somehow that doesn’t usually stop us from living like we are, though. 

Scripture tells us that we are knit together in the image of God, the Savior Who formed and then rescued and redeemed us. As a very short and incomplete sample, our God loves. So are we called to do. Our God communicates. So do we. Our God has emotions. So do we. Our God is creative. 

So are…

And our voices trail off. 

Don’t get me wrong—there’s a gap of infinite proportions between our Creator God and us. But maybe, when we scribble our songs or lisp out our lyrics or try to feebly imitate the music of heaven with human fingers, we’re doing more than just playing around. Maybe we’re echoing the image of God. Maybe our weakest attempts, when done solely to glorify our God, resound more gloriously in our Father’s heart than the greatest works for man could ever do in ours. 

Maybe, if we actually believed that we could glorify God through even the smallest, most insignificant creative “failure”,

maybe, if we actually believed that our excuses to not use our gifts—regardless of what they are—as God calls us to is not “humility” but disobedience, 

maybe, if we actually believed that God knew what He was doing when He made us with all our unique quirks and qualities and abilities and lack thereof, 

maybe we— maybe I—would stop with all the stupid counter-creativity arguments and just take a feeble, stumbling, perhaps deeply inglorious step. Forward, not back. 

And let God, who is able to do exceeding abundant beyond all that we ask or think, do what He will with our obedience. 

Maybe the way we create is actually an act that shows where our identity is grounded.

An Act of Defiance

Real life is really tough. 

Everyone says life is hard. They said so when I was little, and it’s not that I didn’t believe them—but it didn’t mean much to me until I started skinning my own knees and sweating under a too-hot sun and losing forever things I loved and feeling how other humans can so easily bruise a heart. 

Young adulthood is supposed to be a time of hope. Nowadays, it’s just as often a time of despair. It feels like our lights are too weak, our shields too shattered, our strength too feeble to hold back the dark. 

But what if the mere act of using God’s gifts in obedience was also an act of defiance against the darkness, against the forces of evil? 

What if the mere act of doing something with excellence was an act of defiance against the lie that whispers nothing matters? 

What if the mere act of creating something beautiful was an act of defiance against the Enemy’s attempts to corrupt goodness?

What if, by our words and our actions and our obedience, we were actually claiming that Christ is Lord, and there is hope, and our King is coming?

Forgive another Tolkien quote, but in the words of Sam—what if the very act of using our gifts was to acknowledge that “there’s still good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers)?

We fight under Christ’s banner. We can’t do battle under ours—we’re goners there. But under Christ’s banner, what happens when we dedicate our gifts to the cause of the Kingdom? What if we choose to just obey, even if we don’t think we’re good enough, and then let Him use our gifts to heal, to defend, to do battle? 

Maybe creating is actually an act of defiance against the darkness. 

An Act of Courage

“This is why the Enemy wants you to think you have no song to write, no story to tell, no painting to paint. He wants to quiet you. So sing. Let the Word by which the Creator made you fill your imagination, guide your pen, lead you from note to note until a melody is strung together like a glimmering constellation in the clear sky. Love the Lord your God, and love your neighbor, too, by making worlds and works of beauty that blanket the earth like flowers. Let your homesickness [for heaven] keep you always from spiritual slumber. Remember that it is in the fellowship of saints, of friends and family, that your gift will grow best, and will find its best expression. And until the Kingdom comes in its fullness, bend your will to the joyful, tearful telling of its coming. Write about that. Write about that, and never stop.”

Andrew Peterson, Adorning the Dark

Write. Or play. Or sketch. Or lead hiking trips and tell others of the infinite Glory. Or hold your little ones close and tell them about the Truth. Or sit in your office and do your work with such irreproachable love and honor that others can’t help but wonder at the God you know. Or stand in the courtroom, and stand in the gap too, for those who cannot stand for themselves. Shepherd the hearts God has entrusted into your keeping. Whatever the gift your Creator chose to give to you, “steward [it] by stepping into the ring and fighting for it…” (A. P.)

May it never be said of us that we spent our lives “in training, cashing in excuse after excuse until there’s no time left, no fight left, no song, no story.” (A. P.)

Maybe using our gifts, whatever they are, is truly an act of courage.

This week, may we be brave enough to risk creating.