Give a small child a colouring book, a pack of crayons and two minutes and you’ll soon witness what creativity looks like. The crayon package is empty, its contents spread out on the table and floor, several are broken or half eaten and numerous pages of the book are colourfully enhanced. Despite the messiness, the pictures created by the child are quickly turned into masterpieces fit for the refrigerators of the world for all to see and admire — at least the refrigerators of parents and grandparents.
Just like children creating Crayola works of art, messiness is inevitable for the artist who is gifted or perhaps burdened with the high calling of creativity. When the artistic mind is fully functioning, paint gets spilled, pots and pans fill the sink, fabric is scattered around the room and sawdust fills the air — creativity is messy.
Whether it’s an artist like Mike Lewis who uses brushes and hands to paint amazing portraits of Christ or a writer like my friend Randy Elrod who chooses pen and parchment (or perhaps a Macbook) to paint vivid word pictures, the creation of art is very messy — because life is very messy. Of course the messiness of art doesn’t necessarily have to create chaos in one’s creative space, however more often than not art is created via the messiness of the internal workings of the human heart and soul.
Songwriters often write from personal experiences of heartache and pain. A lost love, a messy breakup or a difficult childhood — messiness is everywhere. Some of the greatest painters in history were tortured souls and yet through their pain, we who gaze upon their visual giftedness have been the beneficiaries of a remarkable feast for the eyes.
When we think about the creation of the universe by the Master Builder, we might ask how such intricate beauty could spawn such messiness that has so plagued humanity? The answer is neither clear nor appealing — from the perfection of the Genesis narrative to the chaos of brother killing brother we see that creativity is very messy. In spite of God’s plan to create a perfect Eden, man, through deception and lust, not only coloured outside the lines of that perfection, but also threw His crayons on the ground and trampled them to pieces.
The good news for us is that God did not leave us without crayons — He did not leave us in the mess of our brokenness — He made a way for us to escape the messiness and gave us a second chance at enjoying the beauty of Eden once again. The way He would accomplish this was through His son, Jesus!
One of my favourite bible stories is found in the 4th chapter of John’s gospel where Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well seeking fresh water. I love this story because it is so real and normal for me. Jesus knows this woman needs a fresh start, He knows she has had a tough life — He knows her beginning-to-end life story of heartbreak and marital disfunction. Her messiness is obvious to Jesus, yet He doesn’t write her off as a lost cause, instead he offers her living water and a new start. Her life was rewritten; she was recreated by an encounter with Jesus!
So what does this story have to do with creativity and child’s play you might ask? If you read the Old and New Testament as one story, you will soon see that God has been very creative throughout history to create a new world for us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the midst of the messiness of God’s creativity, we become His works of art. The Apostle Paul affirms this in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV): “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ — refreshed by His life-giving water — he is a new creation — worthy of being displayed on God’s fridge — the old has passed away — the mess has been cleared — behold, the new has come — you’re back in the perfection of Eden.”
Creativity is messy but when the work is finished the art — that is you — is quite simply beautiful!
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”