European Roller, one of my favorite birds
(photo found thru a Google image search)
Currently, I would call myself a “blocked creative”.
I say I am a musician, and I do love music, yet I rarely make music when I’m by myself. I rarely catch myself singing, or even humming; I rarely have the urge to play the piano just for love of the keys under my fingers; I have to remind myself to turn music on in our home. I say I long to help my children grow in their creativity, but I control each creative activity to the nth degree, so that they still have to depend on me to facilitate and make it happen, and their crafts or painting never get out of hand or take on a life of their own for them. Even though I love color and design and creating atmospheres, before I had kids I kept my home so perfectly in order and gave off such a “neat-freak” aura that good friends were reluctant to let their kids into my living room in case they “messed it up”.
Why? What am I really afraid of? How do I reconcile my love for order and the peacefulness it brings me (although admittedly, it’s a tight kind of peacefulness that might snap at any moment when another surface gets cluttered or the sink fills back up with dishes) with my longing to be creative?
And I do long to create. In the depths of my soul I long to make whole albums of stunning original music, I long to have music pouring out of my soul all day long, I long to paint gorgeous water-colors, I long to mural my walls, let my creativity run wild. I long to see my kids enabled and freed to create whatever their little hearts desire. What is holding me back?
Well, I have had a personal epiphany.
I have finally put my finger on the root of the reason why I say I love creativity and long for productivity in my creative giftings (music, writing, painting, crafting, etc), but yet never seem to be able to let myself go into a passionate pursuit of any of these.
Here it is, the root of the reason, from a quote in an article James asked me to read tonight to help him with a paper for class:
“Mess is the precondition of creativity… Creativity is not neat. It is not orderly. When we are being creative we don’t know what is going to happen next... In any creative enterprise there are risks, mistakes, false starts, failures, frustrations, embarrassments, but out of this mess--when we stay with it long enough, enter it deeply enough-- there slowly emerges love or beauty or peace…”
~Eugene H. Peterson, in Under the Unpredictable Plant
I love neat. I love orderly. I hate loss of control, and that whole list of messy stuff in the middle of the paragraph, with every fiber of my perfectionistic being. But... love, beauty and peace are exactly what my heart longs for. Those are what I long to see blossom like birds of paradise flowers everywhere: in my parenting, in my soul, in my marriage, in my ministry, in my relationships, in my home. Everywhere. And yet love, beauty and peace are the exact things that always seem just out of reach, a bit forced, not quite fully matured. Elusive.
I am buying the rest of this book. (I'd buy it just for the title - it conjures up images of jungles and plants with personality and ant-sized people, like in “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”.) I really need to learn how to invite the mess, practice the mess joyfully, and stay with the mess long enough to let love, beauty and peace emerge, because those are the things I’m really longing for. It’s the staying with the mess I find exhausting, because I detest the chaos so much - it feels like stretching a muscle to the pain point and then making myself hold it there indefinitely. Ouch.
But you know what?
I am really tired of living a grey-ish, safe life.
Writing that sentence feels scary, because I have inklings of what living a red-indigo-mauve-chartreuse life will mean for my love of order and control… But even though our family lives outside our home countries, in a context brimming with a colorful mixture of cultures, it is actually extremely possible to make our day-to-day lives grey and predictable, and that is exactly what I have been doing.
So. Stay with the mess. Invite the mess. Stay focused on Love, Beauty, and Peace, and how much my soul is thirsty for Jesus’ presence. Think about that while my soul stretches to maintain sanity amidst the chaos. And hey, maybe if I toss out order and control, I might make room for Jesus to show me how to have a little fun along the way?