I’ve heard more than once that creative ability is a genetic trait, and I think that’s probably true in many cases. I’ve seen it in my own childhood when my mother, a police officer, would spend her scant free time painting and sketching.
Both of her kids eventually followed in her footsteps, with my brother becoming a natural artist like her. He would come home from school with piles of drawings, pottery dishes and guitar chords for songs he was writing. I, on the other hand, usually expressed myself by sewing my own mall-goth attire and writing bad poetry that I think may have put me on the school counselor’s watch list.
My creative mother gave birth to creative kids. I’m beginning to see this emerge in my own children too; my oldest has already shown an aptitude for piano, a gift of musical creation that could have come from his father or my brother. However, my youngest has disabilities that will probably prevent her from ever reading sheet music. She may never sit in a college lecture and hear about the work of Renoir or Kahlo, or even write angsty, cringeworthy poetry like I did.
And yet, she seems to have this innate understanding that the creative process is gratifying, and that being a creator is something to take joy in. Every day when she returns home from preschool, our daughter drags her backpack to us and gestures for us to open it and pull out her artwork. Day after day, Katherine brings home pieces of art that have no real explanation, purpose or professional qualities to them. And day after day, she is extraordinarily proud of herself. She takes great joy in her art.
Maybe it’s in her genes too, but I think the desire to create runs deeper than my immediate family tree. The imaginative works that my brother, my kids and I produce may be genetically influenced by my mother, but ultimately they are gifts from the Father.
A Creative Father
The first few words of the Bible establishes God as a creator and ex nihilo is the term most commonly used to describe his artistic process; out of nothing, God created the universe and the planet we live on. The earth, water and the skies are all His craftsmanship. But only one piece from His collection was a self-portrait; humanity. In Genesis 1:26-27, God is described as creating man in His image and likeness, and from that day forward, men and women continued to bear the imago dei, or image of God. He gave His image bearers dominion over the rest of His created work, and commanded us to care for it.
The first and ultimate Artist created more artists; from builders and designers to painters and poets. Christians worship and serve a creative God.
What art tells us about ourselves and our Father
Part of my ministry internship responsibilities include spending time at an art gallery that my church sponsors. It’s not unusual to have patrons walk in for a few minutes to marvel at the art, only to make a confused face when they see cards for our church on the counter. Staff members often get asked; why would a church sponsor an art gallery? For us, supporting the creative arts in our city is a matter of aligning our interests with God’s. He clearly values creativity, He is the author of it. Shouldn’t Christians value it too? Why wouldn’t we support image-bearing artists as they express and create in a manner representative of their Creator?
The reason creativity resonates with us so strongly is because we bear the imago dei. Artistry is what we are made of. so it calls to us, and pulls us in. We fuss over each drop of paint and each written word until we get our own creations just right. We are moved by works of others, and deeply satisfied when we finally finish our own.
This intense care we have for our created work mirrors the care God has for His own creation, and the joy He took in making it all. He was pleased with what he made.
Any time we see thoughtful workmanship; a painting, a song, a hand-knit sweater or a beautifully-prepared meal, it should serve as a reminder of the creative God we serve.