A few weeks ago I was challenged to think about what links together ‘God and creativity’.
I thought about a service I had attended on the theme of worship, where the feedback from people was very much that we connect with the presence of God through His creation which is the natural world we see about us.
Paul writes in Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…”
And surely when we gaze up at the stars or contemplate the wonder of nature’s diversity, we realise that God is the ultimate creative power, and when God created us, the bible tells us He did so in His likeness. So just as He is creative, that creativity is also in us and available to us. Now you may be thinking yeah, I am the least creative person I know! But creativity is so much more than our typical ideas of great paintings, musical compositions or epic novels.
And creativity is not always about new thinking that leads to progress. We can think of creativity as a freedom of expression, a freedom to be ourselves, something beyond just the arts alone, something that has also driven us to explore the depths of the oceans or stand on the surface of the moon. The freedom to explore where our imaginations lead.
But, I want to focus on creativity through the arts as something to be experienced rather than expressed. Creativity is an experience and experience provokes’ emotion, and the tendency of art is to provoke any or all of our emotions be it admiration or disgust! But art can lift us to experience the sublime – to create feelings within that take us beyond our own boundaries of language, or of our own bodies – experiences that we feel but cannot always find the words to explain. Experiencing the sublime inspires our sense of there being more than what we can see – and in doing so connecting us to experience the divine nature of our God. Experiencing the sublime brings us to a place of wonder and submission to that which is greater than us. It inspires us to find the best version of ourselves, filled with joy and hope.
‘He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end.’ Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV.
Just as we experience emotions we see Jesus does too. He feels all that we do, from fear and anger to joy and sadness. That shared experience of being human connects us to Him. Jesus brings the presence of God directly to us – making Him, as the incarnation, close and personal. Jesus allows us to imagine the invisible God.
So I began to look at how we can use established but creative ways of making His presence close and personal, listening to scripture with our hearts and minds to experience the emotions of the words, to guide our prayers and meditations using art and imagination.
Mediation takes practice, I don’t know how many of you have sat in silence and tried to ‘quiet’ your mind – but often all these thoughts come in, “did I remember to lock the door, I wonder what’s for lunch?” we can feel as if we’re thinking more which can be really frustrating! Using images as a focus for meditation is an excellent way to distract our minds and redirect our thoughts away from the world and towards God.
Even with something to focus on, it still requires practice, but can be an easier way to connect and bring His presence close. For He is with us in every place we are – even if we don’t always feel it.
The following is a suggested activity or ‘Lectio Divina’ a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer. Sit anywhere you find comfortable to contemplate the words in bold below from Jeremiah 17:7-8. Read the passage out loud, if you are in a group take turns to read it out loud, each time stopping to pause and reflect on the questions underneath.
Whilst listening or in silence, breathe in the words and let images from the scene form gently in your mind. You might perhaps think of a place where you have stood by a tree planted by a river or imagine being planted right where you are now – roots growing down from your body connecting you to the earth below. Smile as you allow yourself to feel the sun shining down on you. Perhaps hear birds singing, or the sound of a water flowing gently past you.
“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by the water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.”
• First reading. Is there a word, phrase or image that impresses on you?
• Second Reading. By entering in to the scripture, what do you feel? Is there a specific situation in your life today that relates to this?
• Third Reading. What is God’s personal invitation to you from this scripture?
Loving Father, thank You for the gift of creation, for the diversity of the natural world around us. Father help us to recognise, respect and protect all that you have given to us. Help us to relax in Your love like a tree planted by a river, let us not be anxious in anything, but to trust in You. In Jesus name. Amen.