Riding a New York subway recently, I noticed myself doing something I do so often: trying to look like I have it all together. The MTA is extensive. It?s a labyrinth of tunnels, trains, and busses, and I would imagine that there are very few people who know it well enough to never have to look at one of those giant maps between the tracks. But for me, I?ve always felt insecure looking like I don’t know where I?m going. I at least want people to think I know what I?m doing even when I don?t.
This very insecurity points out one of the greatest enemies to creativity: sure-ness, that internal desire to act like we already know it all.
But creativity is built on the foundation of exploration and a willingness to take risks.[quote]Creativity is built on the foundation of exploration and a willingness to take risks.[/quote]
This spirit of adventure is what Jesus saw in kids that made him say, ?The kingdom of God belongs to such as these.? The childlike faith that Jesus calls us to is integrally linked to creativity. It consists of two essential elements.
When we recapture childlike faith, we embrace:
- A life of awe
- The expectation of discovery
Let?s look a little deeper at these two things and how embracing a childlike perspective can reawaken us creatively.
First, a life of awe. Kids let themselves be impressed. We adults (especially us adults who create things) have sometimes built walls that make us cynical to the work of others. We develop an air of superiority. We become pretentious. Picture the art critic archetype walking around a gallery, nose in the air, unimpressed by everything?approaching life and creativity with overly subdued responses. Maybe you sometimes take on this attitude when looking at the work of your peers?seeing a well built set, hearing a newly released original song, or viewing the work of other designers online.
In contrast, kids are so willing to allow themselves to be in awe and to show it. Kids aren?t afraid to love something they didn?t make. They want to be impressed, and it shows on their face when they are. Kids remember the joy of feeling and seek out opportunities to experience that joy. And believing in bigger things?things they can be awed by?sets them up for unlimited creative potential.
Living a life of awe awakens us to create with bigger expectations.[quote]Living a life of awe awakens us to create with bigger expectations.[/quote]
This leads us to that second aspect of childlike faith: the expectation of discovery. Us adults like to think we know it all. It?s easy for us to find our value in what we know. I love watching Jeopardy. I love when I know the answers (or questions). And all that?s fine for a game show, but being a know-it-all is so detrimental to a childlike faith and a healthy creative life.
In stark contrast to the adult mind, children live in a constant state of expecting to discover new things everyday. Watch a toddler walk around a room. They walk with wide eyes, looking from left to right, resting their eyes on the simplest of things seeing what they can discover. It?s this sense of discovery that makes kids ripe with creativity.
Madeleine L?Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, was often asked who she wrote her books for: teens, kids, or adults. She wrote about this question in her book on creativity, Walking On Water. She said, ?You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.?
This statement embodies the very heart of childlike discovery. Often times people look at her books and reduce them because they seem simple, and so they decide her books must be for children. But what L?Engle is pointing out here is that children have retained the ability to see with the depths of their imaginations. That?s what it means to have childlike faith, and that?s what it means to be creative.
The creative heart and mind isn?t just good for making art. The creative heart is central to the Christian life. How can we manifest the kingdom of heaven without first imaging what the kingdom of heaven looks like? How can we bring redemption without first picturing what the un-redeemed thing will look like in its fully realized form?
Jesus said, ?I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.? I don?t think this is just a statement about eternity. It?s a statement about the here and now. It?s recognition that in order for us to see the manifestation of Jesus? prayer, ?Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,? we have to start thinking like kids again. We have to be in awe of what?s possible. We have to expect to see things we?ve never seen before.[quote]We have to be in awe of what?s possible. We have to expect to see things we?ve never seen before.[/quote]
All our adult cynicism with its know-it-all attitude and clearly defined structures keep us boxed into what we know. But embracing childlike faith opens us to a new way of seeing the world. Well, actually, it brings us back to how we saw the world before we lost our creative heart of awe and discovery.
So today, stop trying to act like you have it all together. Release your fear. Try something new. And recapture the creative heart of a child.