“In the beginning God created…” (Gen. 1:1)
What exactly is God’s motivation for creating? His actions are driven by and ended in love—nothing more, nothing less! Our actions should follow likewise. So, what about the method of our creating? If we truly know and love God, and desire to serve him with all our heart, soul, and mind, how do we take our passion, idea, or desire and turn it into something that can actually be fruitful in kingdom building?
Our key comes from looking at Genesis 2:7-8. After God had assembled and shaped the entire cosmos, He turned His sights to little ‘ole us—to make and create a human in His likeness. This self-sufficient, all-knowing, all-powerful God, who does not need anything from anyone, was caught up in ecstasy with the experience He had within Himself and He put His hands down into the created world to make something truly special—His kids. In Genesis 2:7 the Lord formed mankind: “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
When you think about it, the dust has its own properties and is perfectly content being what it is. It whisks around with the wind, grows soggy with the rain, and steamy when the sun shines. Dust is a raw, unrefined, and relatively useless item in and of itself, but when combined with the breath of an artist, it becomes a work of art. In Genesis 2:6, the narrative tells us that a mist just watered the whole earth. This would have left the dust muddy. So the Word, Jesus, reached down into the mud and the clay, and drew out of it a form. Like a potter carefully caresses the clay as not to bruise it, topple it, or deform it, I can almost picture God with the greatest of intention, carefully spinning humanity on his wheel. God teaches us the first rhythm to creativity. Creativity begins with raw materials in combination with other raw materials. Curiously enough we must also notice that with the rest of creation, God spoke and creation obeyed, but with humanity, God formed. There’s a process of care and intentionality that separates humanity from other created things. We are truly God’s artwork, and we are shaped for purpose and for holiness.
In similar fashion, a songwriter takes language, prose, diction, and rhyme and combines/forms it with rhythm, sound, meter, and time, and it becomes a hit. A cook combines ingredients to make a meal. An architect takes raw metals, concrete, and plans to build a structure. Even to a further degree, a sculptor takes the rock itself and chisels it away to reveal the jaw of David. A businessman takes an idea and combines it with networking, technology, finance, and relationship to launch a venture, and an educator takes people and history and combines them into a curriculum that can be understood. This is the foundation for everything we do on planet Earth. We take things offered to us by a loving God, and we combine them together to make things that attempt to be loving and edifying to our neighbor. Unfortunately, our creativity originates in the human heart, and our ingenuity also results in bombs, making orphans, global warming, breaking families, and pornography! Nevertheless, hidden under our creative mess lies the original beauty of the image of God. Whether we use the whispers of that image in pure or profane ways, God is still our originator and He taught us how to create.
Notice that God then breathed life into his work. Adam was a lifeless pile of clay until God made him alive. Until breath is inserted into the work, it never truly speaks of anything. Therefore, breath is essential to creating life! This does not seem like much until we look at a world that is obsessed with and engrossed in death. God’s creation manifests life in all that it touches, and it seeks to make much of life! Songs need air, buildings need air-filled construction workers, and streets need spirit-filled engineers. All creativity comes from something living, for the dead cannot create. Again, this does not seem like an important point, but there are a lot of dead people walking around attempting to call what they do creative when all they do is glamorize the state of their own heart—dead! People may call it creating, but we must come up with another word that better describes it—degrading, perhaps!
Genesis 2:8 then teaches us the next phase of creation: “the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” After forming the man into a song, a masterpiece, and a work of art, God specified where the man would be put! God put the man in Eden by his own design and forethought, and had prepared Adam for a purpose. Adam was going to tend, guard, and develop this garden. God not only formed Adam, but also formed him for a purpose. This is the same way in which we, as humans, create. We assemble raw things together, we breathe our life, our point of view, and our experience into what we fashion, and then we assign it to a task and a purpose. This means that art and innovation can never be divorced from meaning. Art always means something. Art cannot be made for art’s sake. It cannot serve itself, because it did not originate in itself. Art serves the purpose of the one who made it.
We must come to grips with the reason for all we do as humans. All of what we do originates in a loving God who, in the beginning, poured His life-filling image into us that we should go and do likewise—multiplying that image into everything we touch. Therefore, doxological expression is foundational to human ontology (being). We are, by definition, creative. If we can theologically understand this about God and about ourselves, it will fill our life, work, and play into think-tank opportunities that are wielded to form moments of incredible purpose. All throughout the day, we touch, smell, taste, hear, and see many things. They are all raw pieces combined to make something that is functional. Does that thing truly promote life and breath? Does that thing serve an assigned role within God’s kingdom? Seems to me we need to re-think everything we do.