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. I am highlighting 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 four. Here’s part one, part two, and part three.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17In the movie Hook, the adult Peter Pan – now Peter Banning – has lost his way. Having lived in the grown up world, he finds himself back in Neverland, and as he sits down to dine with the Lost Boys, he is confused: there’s no actual food. They’re all pretend eating! The boys are crunching into massive air burgers and munching on rows of invisible corn on the cob. Banning is frustrated; he’s hungry.
Across from him sits the new leader of the Lost Boys, Rufio, the boy who took his job. Rufio notices the grown up Peter’s look and angrily slides a plate across the table at him. He begins to mock Banning for his inabilities. He calls him goofy names.
Banning at first refuses to take the bait. He mopes while Rufio slings insults. The other boys around the table begin to coax Banning on, urging him to respond. Finally, when he’s had enough of the incessant mockery, Banning finds words. He hurls boyish epitaphs across the table. As the verbal spat escalates, Banning grabs an empty spoon, and as if it is full of gooey gruel, flings it as Rufio face. Shockingly, what lands on Rufio’s face is real. Banning’s imagination has come to life! Peter Banning is restored; now Peter Pan, he has rediscovered the magic and wonder he once knew. Full of joy, the Lost Boys completely cover each other in a gooey, messy food.
Hook beautifully captures how a man who’d lost touch with things that mattered rediscovers his childlike wonder.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul urges his readers to likewise rediscover the childlike wonder of being God’s creation.
To become a new creation in Christ is to be remade as we were in the beginning.
We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and earlier in the same letter, Paul writes that Christ is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The difference between Christ and us, however, is that our image is marred by our own selfishness. As consumers, our inclination is to take from those around us. It’s a destructive desire, temporal and joyless. Christ’s image, on the other hand, is perfect. It’s an image, like creativity, of giving, and its effects are lasting and joyful. (Yes, to create is to give something of yourself.) It’s awfully hard to be creative when you’re inclination skews toward consumption.
We can’t restore our image on our own. In Jesus, we find the restoration we seek, both to God and to our ability to give and not take. When we turn to Christ, God is free to do the regenerative work of Christ in us, and we are recast as the creative person we were designed to be.
This recreative process doesn’t happen instantly but takes a lifetime to fully realize.
Just as any worthy creative work doesn’t come down complete from the sky, sui generis, but requires great effort, this regenerative process takes time, and reveals itself as we follow Jesus. Christ both restores us and call us to a lifelong journey of restoration. This is the journey of faith. We discover along the way.
Do This: Begin filling the page left blank by our consumption.
Following Jesus is a participatory activity. It’s a hands-on event. At first, we may not see the joy and wonder; our hearts may remain empty. But if we keep seeking, miraculous things begin to emerge.
The first thing to do is to get off the couch. Take a step into the unknown. Fill a blank page. Get in your car and leave the house.
You first step will probably be pretty lame. But as you move, your steps will gradually grow from drudgery or hesitation to habit, and then from habit to affect. What you do at first with caution you eventually do with joy. And somewhere along the way, you will come to understand that you’re a new creation, and that your identity has been remade in Christ.
As we begin to understand faith, we rediscover wonder. As I wrote in Think Like a Five Year Old,
What I’ve learned about faith and what I’ve learned about creativity is really the same thing. This isn’t to say that only those with faith are creative or that those who are creative have faith in God, because often neither is true. People without faith can be creative, and people with faith can be (utterly) uncreative. But to engage in the creative process is to have faith.
It is only as we again begin to re-create our lives that we discover that the act of faith has made us a new creation. Paradoxically, we find out that our new identity is actually the same identity we were given in the beginning, but made new. The lies of our consumption are replaced with truth.
This has been my favorite verse since I was a teenager. Our identity in Christ is actually the same identity we were given by God in the beginning. It’s part of the paradox of being a disciple of Christ – and of the creative process. We’re both restored, able to reclaim the wonder of our little place in God’s garden, yet we’re given a new identity – a new way forward. It is both looking back and looking forward, with hope.
What can you begin to do today?