Long before the works of British author, JRR Tolkein were adapted into movies and mainstreamed into American household dialogue, they were part of my family’s household dialogue. My older brother, an avid fan, had us tracking down out-of-print copies of lost and unfinished tales years before their reprint and years before ebay, Amazon, Kindle, and even the internet itself entered the scene (which made this task all the more akin to panning for gold)! Growing up with a Tolkien Obsessed older brother certainly made an impression on me, I idolized him, so I certainly idolized his idol. All this I tell as background for the tremendous impact the following idea had on me as an impressionable, creative child; I learned that Tolkein had seen his works as composing themselves. The stories, once the characters and background were in place, grew, as if a tree, branches and leaves in hundreds of directions. It was as if his ideas formed stories themselves, and he, an outside observer was watching and recording them as they were born, and I
will conjecture, loving every moment of it. Submitting to the natural flow of his creativity, he enjoyed a grater intimacy and mastery with his art than he would have, had he insisted on maintaining control.
The sculptor Michelangelo similarly viewed his work as freeing the sculpture out of the stone that imprisoned it. All he, the artist had to do, was chisel away the parts of the rock that got in the way of the already existent works of art. Again, the art did not submit to his own first perception and ideas, but emerged, preexisting out of the rock, longing for a skilled worker to listen to it, and set it free.
If you’re anything like me, you dabble in bits of art of your own, whether blogging, speaking, scrap booking, or simply making dinner. We are always part of one creative process, especially us women, but if you’re anything like me (and ladies I think this speaks for a good number of us), you need more control over your art than these geniuses would have permitted. I love to plan. I love to have my ducks in a row. I like to know what will happen and when it will happen long before anything happens, and preselect my reactions. Submitting to flow? Not with my cooking! Not with my blog! Not with my perfectly outlined day!
How about with my faith life? Not with my ministry! Not with my prayer time! Not with my bible reading plan! These admissions are especially painful when I realize, I am not simply refusing to follow the flow of my own creativity, but the flow of the Holy Spirit, and God’s creative expression in me! The great artists can let go and marvel at the art forming around their eyes. But me? Especially in my faith life? Somehow, submission seems to be the antithesis to creativity. The antithesis of my creativity, that is. My control, my story, my preconceived and self imposed restrictions on what God is trying to masterfully craft out of my life. Why do I do it? I think any creative mind longs for something that is truly her own. It’s not as simple as a need to be in control (although that is certainly something we all crave to some degree,) We want a voice all our own. We want to find ourselves. We want authenticity. We want to be real.
My three year old has a habit of unintentional existential utterances that catch me off guard and force a change of perspective. The most recent episode happened as she was admiring the shrinking and gradual healing of a scab on her cheek. The concept of healing is a hard one for children. “Why can’t Jesus just heal me now?” She asked two nights in a row. I explained again about patience and how these things take time. I also showed her what to look for to know that it was getting better. The day that she discovered her scab shrinking, she reveled and exclaimed, “Jesus’s real me!’ (Jesus has healed me), I knew she had meant, and repeated it correctly back to here. “Yep,” she nodded, “Jesus is real me!” There it was again, mispronounced but clearer than any message could be! “Jesus is REAL me!” How profound! Here I was, refusing to submit my own plans, life, career and self to God’s creative flow because I was afraid of losing me, and here, out of the mouth of babes, is truth so clear! “Jesus is real me!” In Christ, and Christ alone do I find my real, completed, perfected self! Jesus is the real art, the real creative flow, the real master artist of my life. Jesus is Real me, chiseling away my own stone to free the masterpiece. To free me. To present me, to me! Now there’s panning for Gold!