You Are a Creative II: Beware the Lie That Steals Life

[This is the second post in a series. The first can be found here.]

I don’t like to admit when I’ve been duped, but on this one, I have no choice. I believed a lie. I later discovered just how deep this lie goes; it’s one of the biggest in the world, perpetrated on unsuspecting people from all walks of life and in every corner of the globe. And it’s been told and retold since ancient times—all the way back to the beginning.

What is this lie?

It’s the idea that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who are creative and those who are not.

It goes like this: Creative people dream of things that haven’t been done before, can’t stand being pressed into boxes of conformity, and need to be true to themselves. And the non-creatives? They’re the managers, the plumbers, the accountants, and the other people who do the serious stuff of life so that the world doesn’t come to a grinding halt.

Creatives can’t not create, and so they often pay for their burden with lower salaries or by compromising their convictions, while those with more marketable skills find security at the expense of originality and freedom. Or so the lie goes.

I first became aware of this divide between so-called creatives and non-creatives a few years ago when I managed a team of writers at a non-profit. There, I saw the wall in vibrant color. The “creatives”—the writers and designers—were given their own areas to work in: smaller, clustered offices and open spaces away from the noise. The “non-creatives” were given large offices or standard cubicles, depending on rank, but no special accommodations were offered; they didn’t need quiet time to think or room to collaborate in the same way the creatives did.

There was even special protocol for communication. When creative work was needed, a written brief with goals, parameters, deadlines, etc. had to be submitted ahead of time. This would keep the artist or writer on track and give them freedom within approved boundaries to work their magic. (Besides, non-creatives like filling out forms, right?)

When the assignment was complete, a presentation was given to facilitate the non-creatives. Essentially, it allowed the creatives to explain, in layman’s terms, why the project took the turns it did and why, from an artist’s perspective, the completed product was the right choice, even it had veered somewhat from the brief on file.

As you can probably imagine, these fences had their limitations. There was still a good deal of miscommunication, and there were often conflicts over a project’s direction. Those in non-creative roles often wanted to play the part of a wordsmith or graphic designer, offering their opinion on adjectives and color choices. And those in creative positions routinely desired more authority to undertake a task as they saw fit, to take greater ownership of the projects they were investing themselves in.

Two types of people. Two ways of working. Two tribes speaking different languages. But that’s only the lie we’ve believed.

What if, deep down, we’re not so different? What if every last one of us is a creative?

Creative at the Core

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Consult a good study Bible or commentary, and you’ll discover that when Jesus said these words, He was talking about freedom from the slavery of sin. But have you ever wondered about the other half of the equation? We know Jesus sets us free from sin, but what exactly does He set us free to?

The short answer is that Jesus set us free to live according to God’s original design for humanity. But that explanation just begs another question: How on earth were we designed to live?

We were made in God’s image, created to be just like Him—not in the “You should be your own God” sense that the serpent offered to Eve, but the “You look just like your Dad” sense. In part, that’s what it means to be made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). And if you were to flip back in your Bible to the beginning, to those first few pages before sin cracked that image and invaded our world, you’d discover that God had instructions for our first parents:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

This may be a familiar verse to you. On one level, it’s pretty straightforward. God was telling Adam and Eve to do two things: have lots of kids and care for His creation. But that’s only part of what’s going on here.

Notice that God’s directions are somewhat vague. He doesn’t say how many children to have. He doesn’t provide a tutorial for ruling over fish, birds, and other animals. He doesn’t elaborate on how exactly the earth is to be subdued—or what’s included (and what’s not) in the act of subduing. Part of the reason may be that God wasn’t going anywhere; He would be around to guide Adam and Eve and answer their questions. But I think there’s another reason, and it’s central to the freedom God wants us to have.

God’s commandments were given in such a way that our first parents’ obedience would bring them three gifts: power, imagination, and risk. And these gifts were part and parcel of being human and being a child of the Creator.

Power: God gave Adam and Eve the authority to complete their tasks. They were to act as representatives of their Dad.

Imagination: God left it up to Adam and Eve to decide how they were going to subdue the earth and rule over the fish, birds, and beasts. It was up to them.

Risk: Adam and Eve were responsible to God. What would have happened if they had failed in their task? Well, we don’t have to wonder. They did.

There was one particular serpent they didn’t rule over. Instead of stuffing the tail of the deceiver into his mouth and hanging him from the forbidden tree as a spy, they yielded their God-given authority to him. And the world has been paying for Adam and Eve’s failure ever since.

But that’s the whole point: Jesus came to give us life (John 10:10), so that we might live as our first parents once did.

You are a creative. It’s in your DNA, written on your soul more deeply than any mistake or regret. It’s there beneath scars and wounds from walking through this broken world. It’s your truest self.

What do you think? Have you found freedom in creativity? Is there another element I haven’t mentioned? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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