Stop Telling Me You Aren’t Creative

Create.
Make.
Design.
Innovate.
Bake.
Knit.
Paint.
Sculpt.

For some of you, just the mention of words like that send a shiver up your spine. They make you itch. You can’t do ANY of those things. You are likely also annoyed by those who can.

Creativity. It is something that we think we have or we don’t. We are right-brained or left-brained; into the fine arts or into computer science; we are a painter or a mathematician. Creative folks do creative things, like draw, write, and walk barefoot through the woods. Non-creative folks do non-creative things like make spreadsheets…and money.

What if I use these words instead: Build. Organize. Birth. Forge. Mobilize. Problem Solve.

Everyone is creative. Creativity is not about what we do. Creativity is about who we are.

We often hear people say, “Well, I’m just not the creative type.” But creativity doesn’t have to be confined to fine arts such as music and painting, or even to hobbies such as scrapbooking and woodworking. Isn’t the mathematician who solves a complex formula or the engineer who has to design a multilane highway employing creativity? What about the scientist who discovers a cure for a rare disease? And how about that plumber who found a creative way to fix your kitchen sink leak without having to rip out the entire countertop?

I would suggest that we define creativity in this super-simple way: someone or something that offers you a fresh perspective on the world and your place in it.

I have an amazing singer-songwriter friend, Heatherlyn. Several years ago she shared something with me that simply wouldn’t leave my head – or my heart. She said:

“People ask me about my creative process but I don’t know that I’m any more creative than anyone else.
I think I’m just full…
Full of angst and full of love…
Full of pain, which is sometimes a persistent ache and sometimes, a writhing agony…
I’m full of hope and doubt and the conflict between the two…
I’m full of stories and emotion and passion and longing, fear and trust, strength and weakness, and…love”

Are you full? Full of angst? Full of frustration? Full of wonder? Friends, there’s a reason the Bible begins with creativity, anthropology, and vocation — because these things are what it means to be human. Why we fail to embrace and emphasize imagination and creativity, when God’s guidance about how to be human clearly does, is a great mystery to me.

It will be creativity, above anything else, that facilitates the energy needed in this world to force change. Every time my heart gets broken – and damn it, I feel like it’s every day at this point – it is up to me to decide how I’ll go about responding. When my response is tempered, the energy created is minimal. But when my response is one that is powered by a fullness, regardless of the emotion that fuels it, that response is bound to produce something that guides me into a different perspective on the world and my place in it.

Do us all a favor. Decide what you are full of. If you are full of love, go love someone. If you are full of indignation, go find a protest or cause to engage with. If you are full of knowledge, go share that wisdom with another. Get passionate about something. Promote others. Bring an idea to life. Create, make, do. Rinse, repeat. And watch the world change.

Are We Who We Say We Are? A Journal Entry From the Border

She stood, immersed in trauma, waiting for an answer. Her young son clung to her leg, visibly overwhelmed and scared. She carried only a small bag of food. Her son held nothing other than his mother’s trembling hand. Their eyes told stories that most of us would look away from. Their tears held years of violence. Their bodies shook with anxiety and their shoulders hunched with a sadness of those who had been treated poorly most of their days.

After a four-month journey from their home country of Guatemala, in what must have felt like a lifetime, they had traversed to the apex of the Sante Fe Bridge. The bridge joins Juarez, Mexico with El Paso, Texas. Two armed border control agents stopped them at that apex, demanding papers. If papers could not be produced, they were to head back into Juarez, where they would spend another night on the street. Another night. After so many nights.

It was divine providence that our group spotted her. One of the leaders of the team from Hope for the Border, our host organization, had a keen eye and immediately asked who among us had legal training. As we came to stand alongside her, this group of faith leaders who had traveled to El Paso for to learn, hold public witness and demand justice for migrants, we were unsure of exactly what to do. What we learned next would crush us emotionally and empower us spiritually. She was 4 months pregnant, as a result of sexual violence by a family member. Pregnant. A young, unwed woman. A woman who was fleeing violence at the hands of the powerful. A woman whose road looked so different from mine, but so similar to the one who carried our Savior.

Our work on the top of that bridge turned from support to advocacy within a breath. She was seeking asylum, fleeing the terror of her life. The United States border control agents responded with “sorry, we’ve met our quota. We are full. There is no room for you.” As we prayed with them and asked for a supervisor to speak with, time moved on. A supervisor appeared, with an attitude that was not forgiving. Three more officers joined, demanding that we all proceed down the bridge and leave this woman to reenter Juarez. Two spokespersons emerged from our group – Rev. Jacqui Lewis and Camilo Perez-Bustillo. With the wind of the Holy Spirit behind them, they spoke with the officers and firmly, but lovingly, demanded that the mother and son be allowed to enter Customs and Immigration and petition for asylum. This misfit group of collared clergy folk and justice advocates were not going to let them stay on the street for one more night.

Asylum is considered for women who are pregnant, so with much frustration, the border control officials finally agreed to allow them to descend the bridge and enter the Customs and Border Protection building. We showered the family with love and some cash, knowing that their future was still perilous. Three options were possible: 1) she was turned around immediately and sent back to Mexico; 2) she was detained, likely having her son separated from her or 3) she was put into a process to grant asylum whereby she would be transferred to a shelter to await a court hearing. Our hearts broke as they walked away. As they looked at us, one more time, with eyes so big and full of uncertainty.

If we are people of Jesus how does this NOT break our hearts?

People often say to me, “Anna, when did you become such an activist?” My answer is simple: the day that I started holding the stories of others and allowing those stories to shatter my heart. I can’t imagine the ways in which Jesus’ heart broke on a daily basis, but I can imagine a fraction of the pain. Our call to hold both public and prophetic witness in the face of heartbreak is the work that Jesus has called us into. If we are a people who take seriously the words of Matthew 25:29-46, then we can no longer do our work solely from a pulpit or keyboard. We must find ways to engage in the work of prophetic faith in public and sometimes uncomfortable ways.

I’m convinced that the work of the Church is nowhere close to finished. And I’m convinced that the words of Jesus have told us exactly how we are to be engaged in that work. But above all, I’m grateful for the witness of others, both those who have preceded us and those who stand alongside us in these spaces. Go now, let us ALL be about the work of Jesus.