Monday, March 1, 2010

Painting By Numbers

I get the oppurtunity to hang out with a lot of guys. Whether it's to listen about their life, speak truth into it, watch sports or any other reason, I'm truly grateful to get this oppurtunity to share being alive with them. It really is a time of personal growth and reflection and also teaches me a lot of new things about intimacy with Jesus that I can't get from one on one time with my wife. Over the past week, I've had a fun little discussion with one of these guys about the idea of creativity. It wasn't the normal discussion about creativity involving topics like how we know God is creative, or a question about the importance of meeting Him as a Creator in Scripture. We didn't discuss how our own creativity is another "thing" that makes it clear we are made in God's image or what we can do in terms of disciplines to get our creative minds running. Even the idea that we live in a culture in which, quite honestly, creative people are vitually worshipped didn't become a topic either.

Instead we talked about my blog. Seems kind of weird right? He told me that he checks in on it to read whatever insight or questions I may be raising about the "status quo" in the Christian life. He told me that he does that because he felt like the idea of creative writing and thinking is what is lacking, especially in Christian culture. He went on to say that he thinks I'm creative which was a compliment I have not heard many times in my life, especially as somebody who is thought of as being analytical on the verge of critical. Ironically, when he asked why I've stopped writing, I responded with a reason that had to do with what I felt is a lack of creativity. I said that it seems like I'm posting about the same things as many other people who are much more prominent than me (in the world's eyes, clearly not God's) and in fact felt a bit like an idiot for doing so because their stuff seems so much more original than mine.

That quick discussion is what fueled today's blog. He went on to tell me that he liked what I had to say because even though other people may also be saying it, the way I write it seems like I don't want to copy anybody else (that got me worried). Instead he said that he feels as though my writing comes from my heart, not fearing anybody but God in what I say and that he likes the idea of being stretched to consider if he ACTUALLY believes, what he says he believes.

That type of creative critical thinking is what brought the idea of "painting by numbers" to my mind. When I was a kid I wasn't a great artist, but I was really good at coloring. Staying between the lines was an easy thing for me and when I found out about the paint by color kits I realized that was the perfect place for me to show off my artistic (but clearly non-creative) abilities. I was tired of other kids getting attention for how great they could draw or paint and this was a place I could shine. All I had to do was be the best at using the colors that were picked out for me, on a picture I cared nothing about. When I was done, I may have painted a beautiful bird that made me look artistic even though it lacked inspiration and creativity. I was willing to settle because it made life easier and me look good.

Does that story sound familiar to anybody? Are you living a life that you call creative but is actually just a life that is more "paint by number"? Are you doing all the right "Christiany" things without ever thinking about them? Are you going through the motions by attending religious services, small groups, prayer meetings, retreats, or seminars just to realize that you are there to take and not to give? Do you serve because you were told it's a specific day to serve, but not because you have a heart for service? I could go on and on but it is my belief that we are living in a Christian era of copycats. It's easier that way. We copy culture, we copy poets, we copy preachers, we copy marketing ideas, we copy business strategies for "church" growth, we copy movies and give them Christian names in order to attract "non-believers", and even worse (or better if it's that guy on American Idol doing a NEW version of "Straight Up" by Paula Abdul) we are the kings of "cover songs".

I don't know what it's going to take for Christians, followers of Jesus, to get a mind of their own. I'm not saying that we should be wasting our time trying to make things "untrue" that are eternally true. I'm not saying we shouldn't believe that God is the Alpha and Omega or that maybe Jesus was only a man. What I'm saying is that we need to be willing to let God speak to us clearly instead of us trying to please those around us by how good of a "Christian" we are. I'm saying to get out of the box of doing all the right "Christiany" things without ever getting intimate with Jesus. Im' saying that teachers of the word need to remember that it isn't persuasive speech that does the saving but in fact it's the Holy Spirit and the enabline of the heart by God. When it comes to creativity clearly Van Gogh used things that existed in order to show the world the way he saw it. I can guarantee you that he had seen the nighttime and stars before he painted "starry starry night". I'm just saying that God has given us a mind to use for both analysis and creativity. He has given us a mind to challenge ourselves. I can remember Jesus saying to the Pharisees in the book of John how they looked and looked through the Scriptures in order to find eternal life when instead the freedom of eternal life was just found in following Him. Following Jesus looks different from person to person but there remains one constant when we're truly following him and that is the fact that we can't copy another person's way of doing it.

God wants to inspire you. He does it through His Spirit as you follow Jesus. Allow your heart to be transformed into the person God created you to be instead of who you try and create yourself to be based on what you think is cool or "in". When we create ourselves to be something we're not, we're not being creative at all, in fact we're creating ourselves in the image of something that already exists. Don't settle for painting by color, God isn't worried about you impressing others, He just wants you to have the freedom to glorify Him with the gifts He has already given you instead of trying to borrow the gifts of others to impress Him or them. He loves you, now let Him live in you and work through you in a way that could only be labeled creative.


  1. love the post. few comments.

    you state: "I don't know what it's going to take for Christians, followers of Jesus, to get a mind of their own...What I'm saying is that we need to be willing to let God speak to us clearly instead of us trying to please those around us by how good of a "Christian" we are. I'm saying to get out of the box of doing all the right "Christiany" things without ever getting intimate with Jesus."

    I belive it's going to take a different forum for "us" (us being what i call Marginalized Christians) to get back on the path of God. Years ago I attended church on Sundays, and at that time, I believed that was how you followed God, or worse, how you proved yourself to be a Christian. However, listening to another's interpretation of the Bible or God's word on Sundays did not bring me closer to God. Rather, it slowly caused me to drift in and out of sermons, and eventually out of church on Sundays. Fundmentally my issue with Christianity is that it is entrenched in a tradition (going to church on Sundays) that prevents true intimacy with God. How can Christians learn to think for themselves when the forum is based on sitting in rows and listening to someone tell you what the Bible says? After a while, you realize that you have reached a ceiling (actually a glass ceiling) on your relationship with God. The only way to reach the next level is to take time learning and understaning Christianity on your own. As a close family member once said to me "I would rather be fishing and thinking about God than in church thinking about fishing." Church in a group setting, I believe, is more for appearance than education. Why cant a family sit down and read the bible together?

    In summation, it's difficult to get intimate with God in a room full of people you dont know, and in a process that essentially marganilizes you along the way.


    Marginalized Christian

  2. I really appreicate you taking the time to write. I do agree mostly with what you're saying and completely feel your pain when it comes to the nonsense that is the contemporary version of institutinoal church (though I must say, God can work in there too). I only say "mostly", because I'm very careful about the way I see "the Church" vs. "the church". Jesus is very clear as is Paul about who the "Church" is and why it is Christ's way of showing the truth of who He is until He returns. The Church is to be a living expression of the mind of Jesus as opposed to a killer club that let's people feel better about themselves while forsaking the community that Jesus would serve. He also is very clear that the "Church" is to meet together, love each other, serve one another, give to each other and be built together because we ALL are "living stones" while not mentioning an actual date for that, place for that, etc. Therefore, you're quote "I would rather be fishing and thinking about God than in church thinking about fishing." makes total sense, and at the same time is also the ideal atmosphere for what we call "fellowship" in Christianese. The kind of "fellowship" I see the disciples sharing with Jesus as the followed Him.

    The way I see it, we Christians (meaning follower of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, not the American definition) must continue to live a "horizontal" Christian life that supports the "vertical" relationship with Christ as opposed to dialoguing constantly about what life with Christ "should" be like. The problem is that dealing with the current tradition of Sunday church, squashes the Spirit of Christ as it aims to make a cool Christian version of the current trends in culture, business, music, etc. Gone is the organic nature of each member sharing, and the expressive nature of the Spirit through each member (1 Cor 14:26) and in is the perfect "model" or "program" to attract people to a meeting that entertains the consumer while the "Pastor" teaches people a professional person's view of Jesus without constantly challenging a person to repentance, an emptying of "self", or the truth about Grace (other than the token altar call or talk about sin). I'll stop for now as I will continue sharing my heart on this topic in the blog.

    I'll leave you with this, I love God's Church, I love His people, I love my enemies and I'm prayerful that He is blessed by my life of ministry even though I may not "vocationally" have a job in ministry. I'm grateful for His grace and the fact that He loves me not because I'm perfect but in spite of the fact that I'm a sinner. Thanks again for writing and feel free to pass this around.

    P.S- How did you find this blog? I'm always curious.

  3. you told me about it via FB