Last week I wrote about the link between the idea of Sabbath/rest and discipleship. As I was writing that piece I began to realise there is a link between Sabbath and creativity as well.
In fact, to be honest, Sabbath at its best is at the heart of what it is to follow Jesus, and effects every area of our life. Sabbath is part of a rhythm of life that God designed for us, which is about, as we see in Genesis, creating and resting. Which brings me to the dimension of creativity in relation to Sabbath. This is a little longer than most of my posts, but please, stick with me, because what I have to say I think could be really important in terms of how we see God, how we see creativity and work. So stick with me.
In Genesis 1 & 2 God creates for six days, and then rests. When the Bible talks about what God defines as work, its talking about creativity.
You see, as I have written elsewhere before, creativity is not just about art, design and music.
Its about bringing something new into the world.
Its what we do every day.
Every piece of work we produce, whatever our job, whatever we do during the day which brings something new into the world, then we are essentially creating.
Writing letters, doing presentations, solving crimes, treating sickness, putting out fires – they all bring something new and good into the world. Something that wouldn’t happen or exist if they weren’t there. Stopping a crime. Saving a life. Doing someone’s accounts, working in a bank and taking care of people’s money, working in a shop and providing people with a service and serving people, writing books or articles.
All of it is creative. All of it brings something into the world that wasn’t there without us. And you can say ‘well if I didn’t do it someone else would’. But the thing is that if everyone said that no one would do anything. If you don’t do what you do then something is lost to the world.
All of us have a role to play in the Kingdom. All of us are in one sense being creative when we work, we are bringing something new into the world. In the world God intended, God creates a world that isn’t perfect.
Yep, it wasn’t perfect. That’s not the word the Bible uses, that’s not what God says.
Perfect would imply static, that it can’t change, grow, that nothing further can happen. It means plants can’t grow, life can’t happen. Nothing can change.
Creation isn’t static. It’s not perfect. Maybe it was without sin, but not perfect.
We often use the word ‘perfect’ to mean, ‘without sin’, but that’s not actually true. God called His creation ‘good’ when He first created it, and that was before the fall. So actually we can say it wasn’t perfect without any fear of being heretical, because God doesn’t describe it as ‘perfect’ Himself, but its still without sin.
There’s a big difference.
God said it was good.
He made the world and made each thing with the potential to make more of itself, each plant, each animal and us humans. He made everything to develop and grow and to create more. He creates everything with the ability to go on creating, with the ability, in one sense, to evolve and grow and make more, to almost join Him in the work of creation, in the context of what He has made and how He’s made it, within the boundaries that He has made.
This changes everything. When you look at it from this perspective, then God’s invitation through the cross is not to join His religion, but to be come a participator and co-creator with Him, in bringing His kingdom back to this world, in what He calls the restoration of all things – which, when used in the New Testament, usually means literally, all things.
Its no surprise that at the end of the Bible when Jesus comes back, He doesn’t come to take us anywhere else.
He comes back here.
And its a city He brings back, which, of course is the natural progression and development of what we had right at the beginning – a garden.
So where does this fit in with Sabbath?
Well Sabbath is where we take a break from our work, our creativity. Sabbath is where we reconnect with God and with the creation, and enjoy it. We recharge our batteries, we feed our souls.
I’m only beginning to figure out what this means for me. I think, for me, it means engaging with what we normally call ‘creative arts’. It means going to a gallery, watching a play or performance of some kind, going to a gig, watching a film, looking at books on art and design, or maybe finding some resources online on creativity. Maybe it means going to the country and engaging with creation, going for a walk (not that I can do that very often, but nevertheless, I know it works).
Those things, I have found, feed my soul. They inspire me, they take my mind in different directions, they give me fresh energy and inspiration, and I enjoy them all. It may be different for you, but its those things, the things that give you extra energy, inspiration and fuel for life, that you need to engage with when you take a Sabbath.
Still with me? Great, just one more point I want to make.
There’s one other thing I’ve noticed about Sabbath and creativity. Think about what we often do when we talk about taking a break, getting away, having fun, or taking a holiday.
Does it often involve staying in our homes, shutting all the windows & slumming it all day?
No, we usually go somewhere outside. We like to go to the country, or go somewhere where we can sit outside in the sun, or we go skiing, or just plain go out somewhere. We talk about wanting to ‘get some fresh air’ or ‘get out in the open air’.
When we want a break, it often seems natural to us to reconnect with creation.
Is that a coincidence?
I don’t think it is. Its because when we want to take a break from what we’re doing, to get some space, we’re designed to want to go back to where we came from. Often, by reconnecting with nature, I think we are obeying a primal impulse that wants us to reconnect with God. And its amazing how often we so much better for it, and it gives us fresh energy for the rest of life.
We are all creative beings, and we are designed to need rest, to model what God did in the initial creation. Part of that I believe that when we do take this rest, and when we reconnect with our creator, even on a very primal, basic level, then it can give us fresh inspiration & energy for us to take into the rest of our daily lives.
Of course, its important to spend specific time devoted to silence, reflection and prayer in our Sabbath, and to spend more focussed time with God.
But the point is that Sabbath is meant to reconnect us to our creator, in whatever way we do that – and that it can be done through engaging with His creation.
Then, we ourselves have more energy and inspiration, and a deeper connection with God. This allows us to play our role in the restoration of the world to how God intended it, and part of that is through our work, our creativity, through bringing something new into the world. The scriptures say said that ‘whatever you do, do it in the name of Jesus Christ’, which essentially is saying that every act is an act of service to Christ, everything we do is a sacred, spiritual thing.
We need to look at work in a new way. We need to see it not just as work, that thing we do to get money. We need to see it as our way of bringing something new into the world, our role in remaking the world, our part in bringing God’s kingdom back, as part of an ongoing relationship with God. We need to get away from this idea that only church leaders are ‘in ministry’, and that we somehow need to use Christian jargon to serve God or do ministry, or have the right theological qualifications.
We’re all ministers, we are all serving God and being His representatives wherever we are, and we are all charged as followers of Jesus with bringing the kingdom back, playing our role in the restoration of all things.
We do that in our work, and in doing that we are essentially bringing something new into the world that wasn’t there before, and we’re being creative.
Sabbath is the way then that we reconnect with God in whatever way works for us, to give us the energy, inspiration and motivation for the rest of life, to do our work well and to be a minister of the gospel wherever we work in whatever we do.Creativity and sabbath, together with work and discipleship, are all inexorably linked. They are all part of the rhythm of life for which God designed us. In a consumer society where the pace of life moves so fast and we are always so busy, do we ever take the time to just rest and enjoy creation?
Do we ever create space just for God?
Do we allow ourselves a break to reconnect with God and creation?
If we don’t, it’s going to be much harder to be able to create, to work well, and to be able to live the full life that God wants for us.
In such a busy world with so much busyness and stress, Sabbath, surely, is needed more than ever.