My new book, Think Like a Five Year Old, presents the story of creativity: what we had, how we lost it, and how to get it back again. The book tells a lot of stories but underneath it is girded by a theology of creativity. This series, How to Find a More Creative Life (According to the Bible), highlights some of the specific biblical passages that tell the story of God’s promise to us for a more creative life in Christ. This is part two. Click here for part one.
Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.Romans 12:2
In Pixar’s film of the same name, the robot Wall-E is the last sentient being left on an abandoned, trash-covered Earth in the year 2805. Humans long ago left the planet under the control of the BnL (Buy ’n’ Large) corporation, and Wall-E was left to clean it up. The beautiful film tells the story of the end result of a runaway consumerism, where humans have let machines do everything for them for so long that they can no longer even walk or handle basic human tasks. In the film, the lonely robot and his love interest EVE rise above their programming to become a clarion call for humanity to re-engage with work, which isn’t a curse but instead the thing that makes us human. (More on this later.)
It is no coincidence that the film’s primary storyteller, Andrew Stanton, is a Christian. The film hints at a theology of creativity. Consider:
The pull of an uncreative world is always towards conformity.
Things that are unique or different get—in order—ignored, mocked, and ferociously combatted. Just look at technological advancement, which has met with its share of resistance.
The derision toward creative thinking is such that most of us quit trying to be creative in our late elementary school years. Educators call it the “Fourth Grade Slump.” Already wounded from the world’s slings and arrows, we opt for comfort and security. We choose to be conformed, to seek comfort and the illusion of security, even though what we get is a life of temporary distractions and joylessness. Consumption is killing our minds.
In our state of consumption, our minds have turned to mush. We binge watch, we eat, we zone out. We think, but many of our thoughts aren’t helpful – they’re even destructive. A pastor friend calls this “stinkin’ thinkin’.” We’re pessimistic, we lack hope, we become victims, we seek escape, we blame shift. Not every thought that runs through your mind is equally valid. Many of them, in fact, are flat out wrong.
The promise of Romans 12:2 is that we can experience a transformation in our lives through the renewing of our minds. Can we learn how to think differently?
The alternative to consuming is creating.
This is what develops when we follow Jesus – our mind is renewed. Jesus doesn’t offer a promise of comfort, though; it’s a promise to be renewed, which is very different. Part of what happens to us in the faith life is a shift from fear, which drives a consumer’s mind, to curiosity, which drives a creator’s mind. Creativity is in fact hard work, but the thing that brings life, or in our case, brings back life. Like any restoration job, we require a lot of sanding and staining to be brought back to life.
But here’s the kicker:
Both of these things – being conformed and being transformed – are passive tense.
They happen to us. In neither case do we manage the outcome.
You are not in control over your own life. Control is an illusion. You are only in control of one thing: the decision to seek first.
The first step to breaking out of our destructive patterns of consumption and conformity is to recognize that we need to actively work toward transformation. We may not be in control, but there is something we have to do, and that is acknowledge the power of the Christ that can break us out of our rut and redeem our creativity.
Next week I’ll post a how-to suggestion on getting started.