Redemptive Creativity


I think creativity is an essentially redemptive act.

The Mythic opening of our scriptures begin thus: In the beginning, God created. The very first thing we know about God is that He is creative. Into the darkness and void, He brings beauty, order, and meaning. And we humans, most miraculously and foundationally, are made in His image, which means a profound part of our identity the ability to create.

In her book Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle describes acts of creation as “bringing cosmos from chaos.” This is what we see in Genesis, God singing into being a cosmos out of the chaos of the void. Under this definition, creativity can wear many faces. Bringing cosmos into chaos can be seen when a composer brings the dancing notes on a score into soaring unity and harmony. Bringing cosmos into chaos happens in a well ordered house with pictures on the wall, a candle glowing, and soup on the stove. Cosmos can be brought into the chaos through a well tended garden.

I hope I bring some cosmos to chaos when I set words down on paper.

The redemptive creativity sewn deep in our beings is directly opposed to the chaos we so often encounter in the world.

Evil un-creates.

So often, the trials that rock our souls most are ones which seem to chip away at who we are as a person; the trials that unmake us. The sadness that strikes and makes you wonder if the joy so natural to your personality is gone forever. The relational difficulties that make you wonder if you really are able to have close and loyal relationships. The rejection that makes you wonder if you’ll ever be able to pursue the dreams of your heart.

Beyond the personal realm, evil erodes the beauty and order of culture. Perhaps we could even consider the more drastic evil of terrorism; an evil that seeks only to destroy the sense of safety, order, and trust. We perceive chaos in our political spheres.

So often, our true trial is not only in bad circumstances but in the feeling that who or what we love is being destroyed, mangled, un-created.

When we are creative in any capacity, we battle against the unmaking of pain and evil.

When we create we declare that there is order and loveliness in the world. This does not mean that all art must be orderly and lovely; a great role of art is to tell the truth, and the truth is not always beautiful. But good art always seeks to mean something, and therefore to declare the world meaningful.

While in Dublin last year, I had the great delight of seeing the Book of Kells, a collection of ancient illuminated gospel manuscripts created in the monasteries of Ireland and Scotland in the 8th century. They are truly awe inspiring; one of the most moving pieces of history I have ever encountered. Each book is covered in illuminated painted scenes inspired by the gospels. They are so intricate you can hardly perceive the patterns woven into every scene. Though they are ancient, the colors are still vivid and diverse. When you look at page, the woven patterns and colors almost seem to dance and spin. But as amazing as the manuscripts themselves is their story; they were created during tumultuous years of the Viking raids in Ireland. I can’t remember the exact number, but the monasteries in which they were kept were raided and burned from 30-37 times in 15 years… and yet the manuscripts were carefully preserved, surviving even when most of the monks perished in the attacks.

In response to the great un-making evil of the Viking raids, humble monks and scribes created and brought beauty. A beauty which spoke to my soul and strengthened my faith 1,200 years later. Could there be anything more brave?

A poem in the margins of one of the scribes’ work reads:

I get wisdom day and night

Turning darkness into light.

This is the redemptive power of creativity; bringing cosmos from chaos, light from dark. And I believe this is the mission to which we are called. To turn darkness into light. To stare into the chaos of our broken world, and to bring cosmos. To paint, cook, love, sing, write, dance, teach, heal. To act in the image of the One who sustains our being. To look at the crumbling bricks of our world and say, “I think I can make something of this.”

So, what will you create today?


11 thoughts on “Redemptive Creativity

  1. Joy, this post reminded me of the scene from Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” when Meg and Charles Wallace stare into the darkness and realize it’s not just the stars holding the chaos at bay, it’s Leonardo Davinci and Michaelangelo. It’s Einstein and Madam Curie and anyone who brought order and beauty from the chaos of the fall. When I think about it, this is why I have always loved writing and music because when I play the notes on the keyboard suddenly order enters whatever kind of day i am having. When I write words on an empty page, suddenly meaning breathes to life into whatever chaos I am facing.

    Thanks for sharing! I always appreciate your thoughts. 🙂

    • I so agree, Dani! And “Wrinkle in Time” is one of my favorite books. I just re-read it this summer. And I love what you said… it reminds me of what you said regarding acting a few posts ago. Creativity makes things expressible, and brings beauty. I always appreciate your thoughts as well!

  2. Wow, thank you for this. I have always viewed creativity as a divine quality, but never specifically attached the quality of redemption to it. Definitely something I need to ponder about more.

  3. I *so* loved this! “When we are creative in any capacity, we battle against the unmaking of pain and evil.
    When we create we declare that there is order and loveliness in the world.” Yes!!! In my little corner of the world, I paint. And yes, it does help battle hardships. I feel such a strong inner need to have beauty and order! Thank you for putting this into words, and so well. I’m very grateful for the gift of creativity that God has given us.

  4. Thank you for sharing this! I don’t know if I’m the only one, but while reading this I was thinking about the terrorist attacks going on today, and this post really lifted my spirits. Although it seems like there are more powerful forces against us and it feels like we’re losing, we don’t have to be afraid. We can bring serenity and joy in these dark days, and in the end, God wins.

  5. Thank you for this, Joy. I love its truth and the way you tied in the story of the Book of Kells – the beauty of its making and preservation in the face of the rampage of destruction brought by the Vikings.

    I’ve not commented in several months though I’ve continued to read each of your blog posts.

    A tragic death in our family had left me feeling and fighting this:
    “So often, the trials that rock our souls most are ones which seem to chip away at who we are as a person; the trials that unmake us. The sadness that strikes and makes you wonder if the joy so natural to your personality is gone forever.”
    Thank you for giving me the words to describe what I haven’t quite been able to articulate, and for reminding me that I am right to go on pursuing beauty here – it is the way by which I reflect my trust in the One who first created all beauty, and through whom all chaos will ultimately be brought back to cosmos.

    God bless.

  6. Pingback: wrap-up // may 2016 | A Gathering of Dreams

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