A couple of months ago, I travelled to Barcelona with our daughter for a few days away. It was a trip we had talked about doing for many years, but the time never seemed to be right. Last year we decided we need to set a date and go. What a wonderful time of sightseeing and being together it was! But I was unprepared for the incredible experience of visiting and discovering the Sagrada Familia Basilica. As I learnt about Gaudi and his amazing vision, I was struck by how as a child he had been so focused on nature, and how passionate he was in wanting to replicate nature in his buildings.
Gaudi was not an easy pupil! He was interested only in the things that captured his attention and refused to conform. The results are stunning buildings that replicate dappled light inside, that are supported by pillars that
soar like trees, and are crowned with pinnacles that shine with mosaic tiles high on the top. Gaudi’s vision was to recreate the gospel story in a visual form for all who walked around the outside of the Sagrada Familia.
It was an incredibly moving and profoundly spiritual experience.
I want to suggest that the glory of the Creator’s hand is both upon us, as uniquely designed individuals, and within us, as the spark of creativity. The Bible tells us that we are God’s works of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life. (See Ephesians 2:10.) The Passion Translation renders this, “we are God’s poetry”. The New Living Translation calls us “God’s masterpiece “. And the beautiful Psalm 139 tells us we are fearfully and wonder fully made (Psalm 139:14) God is revealed to us as our Creator, crafting and designing us as extraordinary works of art.
But, made in His image, we are both created and creators. It is our nature to shape, to find meaning, to express thoughts in actions as well as words, to compose music, to make art, to dance, to write poetry, to sculpt, to design, to garden and so much, much more. In the darkest places, the innate impulse to create always comes through. No matter how dark, it seems that we can imagine things being different and set about the transformation, even with the smallest objects available. At the beach, we make sandcastles or build piles of rocks. In caves, people drew pictures, and in Australia, ancient civilisations scratched artwork into stones. In concentration camps, prisoners used art to retain some semblance of their dignity and self-image, in a place where all sense of humanity was deliberately stripped away. On the high seas, sailors turned to whalebone as a place to practise the delicate art of scrimshaw. Creativity, it seems, must find a way out. Our sense of who we are must find a creative outlet. We cannot help it.
Perhaps we should ask why creativity seems so incredibly important? I believe it brings us closer to the God we love and expresses all aspects of our life and His role in that life. It allows us to connect with Him in ways that are heart to heart, to respond to the Father’s love and the Lord’s glory and to share the deep feelings of hardship that we also endure in life’s journey. Who can stand and watch a glorious sunset or a tremendous thunderstorm and not feel impacted by the power of the Almighty King of Kings? How moved we feel when we engage in many different
forms of worship; the music taking us to a place of closeness with God that words alone cannot do. Sometimes we are changed forever, perhaps by seeing a fantastic piece of art. I will never forget the Sagrada Familia, and I will always remember seeing Dali’s “Christ of St John of the Cross” on display in the National Gallery.
Then there is poetry. How can words capture in such a wonderful way our deepest fears and hopes, our loves and dreams? I will never forget the first time I heard Maya Angelou’s poem “On the pulse of morning”. The power and spirituality imparted by being close to these inspiring works of art have left an imprint in my soul that cannot be undone. I was permanently affected by God’s love and care captured through the work and creativity of men and women. We respond to the created with the heart and spirit and fly into realms that take us beyond our rational understanding.
But I imagine more than a few people are reading this who would say, “I am not creative at all. I don’t have a creative bone in my body”. How we have been misled! Maybe school told you that you weren’t ‘artistic’. Perhaps you tried and seemed to fail. I believe that we are all creative – we need only go into a row of similar houses, and every single one would be different inside. There is a reflection of us in the colours we choose for the walls, the paper we put up, the pictures we love to display, and the items around that mean something special to us. If we all had a blank sheet of paper and crayons, we would all do something unique. Whether we feel like it or not, we are all creative. And yet we must acknowledge that it is a fragile thing that can readily be squashed – which then leaves many of us feeling that we lack any creative spark. It is there, maybe buried, but I would like to encourage you to be brave and try something creative. It might be something you put aside a long time ago or it maybe something you have never done before. Pick up the dreams you once had and try out your creativity once more.
We owe it to the little ones in our care to enable them to develop every aspect of creativity in their lives. Young children fizz and sparkle with ideas. They constantly pretend and create new games. They turn old things into new things. They have confidence and boldness to try things out and take a risk. When Gaudi designed the Sagrada Familia, he took an immense risk. The technology to build much of it was not even in place, and so today the completion of his grand vision continues. Within him, and within the children we care for, there is innate creativity that we need to nurture with tenderness. I suggest that we owe our children the right to be creators and the liberty to explore in many ways the creativity that lies within them, the freedom:
•to have many hours outside with the time and space to explore and to wonder
•to listen to many different types of music and to hear talented
musicians who play with passion and skill
•to listen to poems and songs of many cultures and types
•to take a risk as they play and experiment with mud, paints, pencils, chalks and the broadest range of materials without adult control over what they should produce
•to dream and to tell stories
•to build and to make mistakes and try again and again
•to be surrounded by beautiful things inside and outdoors
•to have time with adults who love them and are genuinely interested in their ideas, thoughts and feelings.
I wonder (with my creative imagination roaming freely) about Jesus, the boy. There He is in the carpenter’s workshop, watching Joseph working with the wood hearing the sounds of the plane gliding across the planks, and the saws cutting through the logs, smelling the fresh sawdust and gazing at the newly hewn timber. I wonder about Jesus in the temple, listening to the words and poetry of the Scriptures, feeling the rhythm of the language and experiencing the emotional tones of those who are reading. I wonder about Jesus at weddings and parties, joining in the dancing and singing, and laughing with his family. I wonder about the child who becomes the man, always connecting with His heavenly Father and the Creator of all.
Let us slow down for a while and take a step back. Breathe in the beauty around us. Let the creative Holy Spirit within us connect us again with our Creator God. Let’s allow our children to be free to create and relate too to their loving heavenly Father. Maybe we have another Gaudi, Dali or Angelou among them who needs space to be and to connect with God in their individual, unique and creative way.