1 Thessalonians 5:24
"Faithful is he who has called you, and so shall he make it come to pass."
When I was a boy, I loved to play outside. My brother and I would spend our summers running through the yard, chasing the ice cream truck, and running around the neighborhood with the other kids on our block. In many ways, creativity was instilled in me very early on. We did not have much growing up, though my family lived comfortably, and so those days were filled with imagination and storytelling. Our fort in the backyard became a pirate ship. Our swing set, the jungles of the Amazon. And the crawl space the horrific caves of doom. All these things were merely child's play, yet its impact would be more significant than I could know.
In a quote attributed to Albert Einstein, he says, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." As children, we learn to play and utilize our imaginations. Until one day, we are told to grow up and stop acting like children. But the truth is, our behavior as children, our creativity, is what we are missing from the most significant endeavor we could ever know. That endeavor is fulfilling the great commission set before us by Jesus. As followers of Christ, we ought to have a rooted, child-like faith that allows us to approach God in awestruck wonder. And as leaders in the church, that same wonder should empower us with a spark of innovation to think creatively when we approach training up the next generation of believers and leaders.
So it bears asking the question:
What keeps you up at night?
What has been tugging at your heart?
What are the dreams of innovation and creativity within you that you've been struggling to set free?
For me, it begins as a memory.
REDISCOVERING MY PASSIONS
I have always found beauty in the arts. Whether it be music, poetry, literature, or paintings, art has had a critical influence on my life. Growing up, I would spend hours in my room working on homework listening to the radio and recording my favorite songs to a funny little device known as a cassette tape. I could play back my recordings and listen to the songs I was becoming familiar with and even take them with me in my Walkman. I would spend time in my school's library checking out stories and anthologies that transported me to worlds I had never imagined before. And I would sit at my desk doodling in the margins of my notes as my teachers taught me.
Even with this affinity with art, I always felt uncomfortable, uninspired, and most importantly discouraged. It was in Kindergarten when I first remember experiencing push back to creativity. I believe it was nearing Valentine's Day or perhaps Mother's Day before school let out for summer, and I had a simple assignment laid before me. Color the rose, red. I saw the rose. I saw the red crayon. I saw a bright fuchsia crayon. Fuchsia has traces of red and purple in it, giving a pinkish purple hue. My mother loves purple. So I looked at the red crayon and then back to the bright fuchsia. As if some tormented soul was upon my shoulder gingerly edging me toward my desires, I chose fuchsia. I began to fill in that rose with such ferocity that the bold lines from the copier could barely contain the color I laid down. And then I heard a voice. It was the voice of my dear Kindergarten teacher. "Nicholas," she said, " you cannot use pinkish purple, the direction clearly say red. You are doing it wrong."
I sat stunned and afraid. Not afraid of what my teacher had said. But fearful of what my mother would think if I gave her a pinkish purple rose that was supposed to be red. At that moment I decided I was not an artist. I was not creative. I just was. Mandatory art classes, even doodling in class. It was all filtered through that memory that would stunt my artistic development for almost twenty years. So what would recapture my wonder? How would I rediscover my passion? That story begins with an introduction to my greatest hero.
Tim Burton's Batman (1989) was released in theaters one year after I was born. By the time I became introduced to the Caped Crusader, Burton had already unleashed the cinematic sequel Batman Returns. Immediately I was drawn into this world unlike any other. The color schemes and visuals captivated my eyes, and the story pounded into my mind like a drum. Michael Keaton's prowess as the Dark Knight invigorated my imagination with dreams of saving the world, but it was Jack Nicholson's Joker that proved to shake my world. I was fascinated by this broken mind. This human being that was split by the tragedy he faced, and how it tortured his soul. I wanted more.
I remembered seeing pictures of these characters on turnstile racks in the grocery store, so the next time my mother and I went to get groceries I begged her to buy me the stories. These stories became the rekindling of creative spark in my imagination. Even if art did not commence immediately, and if stories did not flow so smoothly, I knew I wanted to be like the men and women who used their creative talents to share stories with the world.
In 2015, at the age of 26, I attended my first comic convention. I had the opportunity to meet writers and artists I admired for years. What I saw were stars and heroes of my childhood greeting fans and drawing characters I knew and loved. It inspired me, and I ended up leaving at the end of the convention having bought a sketchbook, pencils, and a few inking pens. My first drawing that evening when I returned home was abysmal. But I was proud of it, for that sketch was the start of a new journey towards bringing my passions out of my heart and into the world.
What I didn't realize, was that I had been utilizing creative methods through my whole life. In ministry, it's problem-solving the student ministry trips when schedules don't go to plan, developing curriculum for summer camp ministry, inventing exciting new games for students, or discovering creative ways to counsel those in need. At home, it is talking to my children about life, discipline, and grace; or in my relationship with my wife as we continue to learn and love each other with respect and romance.
Sometimes you and I need to look at our ideas and dreams with a new tool or from a new perspective. In doing so, we can reignite the reasons why it became so important to us in the first place and perhaps give it new life out in the world. All of us, in different ways, have this innate ability to be innovative.
We were made to create.
*Photo from Unsplash.com