Creativity Calling: OH NO! God Made Me Creative!

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There’s this moment where creatives need to “come out” to their friends and families. While not as charged as a discussion about one’s sexual orientation, there are situations where I can imagine a parent gasping and wondering, “Where did I go wrong? Why couldn’t he be a doctor, lawyer, or architect?”

And even for “practical” folks like doctors and lawyers, they may find fulfillment in their careers, but in the evenings they experiment with torching a crème brulee, smudging pastels on a canvas, or writing novels about a doctor who fights crime on his smoke breaks. They may hide these side hobbies, worried what people will think of them.

It took me so long to accept the possibility that no other career felt right to me because God created me to be the freewheeling creative type.

Three weeks as a temp in a mortgage company’s South Jersey office was enough to drive home my need for a different kind of job. Endless days in a sea of cubicles and that one guy whose only conversation topic was the company softball team… it was like living in that movie Office Space. I knew I wasn’t cut out for that kind of job, but then what?

Write books?

Can’t be that…

My practical side kicked in when I bumped into my creativity, devaluing it:

What can you DO with this creativity?

It’s like creativity becomes a liability, a waste of time, and, worst of all, a selfish pursuit that pulls us away from more important tasks.

There are ways we can misuse our creativity, but it need not be a liability. In fact, when we bump into that side of ourselves, we can re-ask that question with a different spin:

What CAN you do with this creativity?

My suspicion is that God isn’t running around in heaven with his arms in the air shouting, “Oh no! Ed found his creativity!!! What will we do with him if he doesn’t become a lawyer now???”

My creativity is a gift from God. So is yours.

We sometimes divide the world into people who are creative and people who aren’t, but the truth is that we all have some kind of creativity that stirs within us. We just think of ourselves as practical or write off creativity as something for kids.

This gift of creativity is something God intended us to use.

It would be a tremendous tragedy if my friends who are passionate about teaching children didn’t take jobs in elementary schools.

It would be terrible if my friend with a passion for new technology didn’t launch his own company.

It would be tragic if someone passionate about understanding the complexities of our world didn’t earn a PhD.

And lastly, it would be tragic if those called to write, paint, compose, or perform ignored those gifts.

It’s all the same in God’s eyes. All are gifts, and we can use them in any variety of ways. Some will experiment with our creative gifts on the side, while others will hone their arts full time. There isn’t a clock where you need to punch in a certain number of hours in order to legitimize your creativity.

When you have a creative gift, it’s yours to use and, and this is important, to practice.

God isn’t surprised like our friends and family by our creativity. He’s delighted that you have talents and gifts to share with others. And perhaps the greatest challenge is believing that we’re not being selfish by using them. We’re answering a holy calling.

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14 thoughts on “Creativity Calling: OH NO! God Made Me Creative!

  1. Andi

    I definitely needed to read this today, Ed. Thank you.

    When I was in college, I hid in the bathroom reading Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water because, somehow, I had internalized that I shouldn’t be dreaming that big . . . that I shouldn’t believe the impossible could happen.

    Sometimes, even living this life, I still slip back. Thanks for catching me on the backslide.

    1. ed Post author

      It’s amazing to think that God created out of nothing and that he sees us and thinks, “Yeah, I can make a new creation out of that!” It makes me feel a little better about my rough drafts!

  2. lisa delay

    It is a holy calling.

    (and like the role and road of the prophet, it’s fraught with pain and others misunderstanding us!)

    Perhaps some of the greatest things we can offer other (less creative personality types) is …

    Vision
    New Perspective
    Reflection / an avenue of introspection and honesty
    Permission (to do things differently, among other things)
    Healing
    Inspiration

    I’m loving this new series.

    But, gosh…what’s that contraption in the photo? Is it a walk-talky from the truckers days? 10-4, good buddy? (just kidding…wait…it’s a pay phone, right?)

    :)

    1. ed Post author

      I think the red thing in the picture is part of a changing room. At least, I saw a movie once where this guy kept changing into a cape in one of those things.

      And yes, there is pain in the creative process! Especially when you invest yourself into something and it totally flops!

  3. Chris White

    Great piece Ed. Important. When I “came out” as a creative in my twenties, I was immediately (and frantically) pointed in the direction of advertising and the church drama team. It took me years to realize that my gift and calling was neither an evangelism tool nor a guarantee of manna-like paycheck. It was, quite simply, the spiritual foundation set for a fascinating life yet to be lived. I’ve since left the ad agency and drama team, but am loving this fascinating life, this gift from God.

  4. sarah louise

    “It would be tragic if someone passionate about understanding the complexities of our world didn’t earn a PhD.”

    It took me forever to tell my mom I wanted to go back to school and it turned out she thought it was a great idea!!

    Thank you for this, Ed. As I embark on starting to apply for a PhD (again), I need this encouragement.

    You are a really good cheerleader.

    Also, Walking on Water is one of the best books on creativity and holiness that I know of. I am grateful for the copy that was given to me by a friend’s mom when I graduated from high school.

    xo,
    SL

  5. Jen

    The line about God waving his arms in alarm made me laugh! You are exactly right. We need to embrace our creativity, and we also need to stop comparing ours to other’s. You go on with your bad self, Ed.

  6. Annie Barnett

    This is such comfort to me, such a needed word. As I’ve slowly embraced the idea of myself as an artist, I see the art everywhere – in my marriage and parenting and homemaking and writing – it’s a way I bear God’s image, and a way to serve with joy. Thank you for this.

  7. Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    Just the headline alone–not to mention the image of God running around in heaven, all worried because Ed found his creativity–made me laugh.

    This sense of creativity being selfish and a waste of time is definitely something I’ve felt before, even with my corporate copywriting business on the side to “legitimize” me and pay some bills. There’s just such a chasm between the way God understands “economy” and “success,” and the way our culture does.

  8. Sara

    Oh my goodness! I just discovered your blog, and you are saying exactly what I need to hear! I just subscribed in fact.
    I am reading a book now on unlocking your creative self. I have given up so many things that I enjoy in an effort to me mature and bring in a paycheck. I am ready to rediscover the creative side of myself that God created. It is time to be who He designed me to be, not just what others want (those others are never satisfied anyway). Keep up the good work! I look forward to reading more of your work soon.

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  10. Cat

    After years of whispering words of quite encouragement, today God decided to speak a little louder through your blog which I happened to ‘stumbled’ upon.
    He made me this way.
    He made me to use this spark of a gift to light fireworks that spell His name out in the sky. Thank you Sir, for being that louder voice.

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