Challenges lead to creativity

The problem with much of our lives is that we become comfortable. It’s quite easy to stay where we are, do what we have always done, and not try something different, new or creative. To many of us can run from the creativity within us. But cretivity is sewn into the fabric of our being by a creative God. We run because everything is “fine” where we are.

We can often dwell on the cost of stepping out of the comfortable. Maybe it’s financial. It could be relational. It might even be the pure stress of the matter. No matter the excuss, we find one, good or bad, and lean on it with all our weight.

While this manifests itself in our personal lives and corporate lives, the church has not been exempt. After all, the church is people and people like comfortable. More often than not, it takes an event to move us in creative directions. It is like the company that is on the verge collapse and has to sell cereal just to stay afloat, like Air BNB. Or like the person who has to find time in their already busy schedule to exercise after their doctor gave them bad news regarding their health. In both crises, it is the challenges that force us out of the comfortable and into the creative. I would argue that it is perseverance in moments like these that cause us to grow as people, and I believe perseverance takes creativity.

Think of the human body. Exercise causes the body to go under stress, which causes the muscles that you’re working to break down. It’s the stress that creates growth. Here’s the thing, if you always do the exact same thing, same weight, same exercises, same exertion, you will never grow. Your body learns what to expect. It has a memory. You have to be creative with your workouts if you want the full benefit. You must do lifts and twists, different weights and reps in order to get the full impact.

To come back to the church, it can feel like we have to fight an uphill battle when it comes to creative change within the church (or any change for that matter). It’s like how we seek comfort personally, so too do our congregations and institutions accept their happy and comfortable existence. However, just like the body needs stress to grow, so it is with our congregations.

In the wake of Covid-19, I have been able to see something amazing. The stress of not being able to gather with our congregations has compelled churches to become creative. For many, this has meant trying out live feeds of their service or sermon on social media. This is a massive step for some congregations, and I’m proud of you. For others, they have become creative on how to reach out to their communities in the wake of isolation.

Challenge is forcing creativity.

My encouragement is for you to keep pushing to find new ways to show who Jesus is through good, bad, and ugly times. If this infectious disease goes away soon, don’t let the creativity fade along with it. Don’t settle back into the comfortable. We must keep pushing ourselves past the comfortable and into the creative. After all, we were made for creativity. It’s a beautiful place that though challenging, is real and stretching and the place of growth.

Let’s open up our hearts to the Holy Spirit. Let’s allow the divine creativity to flow through us. Let’s, in a paraphrase of Acts 1:8, receive the Holy Spirit and be God’s creative witnesses in our cities, our municipalities, to people we don’t like, and even to the ends of the earth.

Living in Exhale

The physical body is a marvel. We have limbs, cells, plasma, ventricles all working together intricately. It truly is amazing.

Throughout the Scriptures, the biblical writers use the body continually as an analogy to describe our spiritual lives. The most popular being the Apostle Paul’s admonition for the church in Corinth to be united and work together just as a body does, in fact, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12).

Recently I was doing some learning about the human body when I learned something new, which, when it comes to biology, isn’t hard for me to come by. Regarding breathing,

Expiration occurs passively during normal, quiet breathing, requiring no assistance from muscle action.

As one of my friends stated, “This is why it’s so creepy when someone dies—they breathe out.”

What I find very interesting is that when you exercise your body, no-longer is the expiration of air passive, but is active. What is literally effortless during ordinary moments suddenly requires abdominals, internal obliques, serratus posterior, and internal intercostals, which are pulling the rib change down to force the air out.

As I recall how the Scriptures use the body as a metaphor for our spiritual lives, I couldn’t help but think of my patterns of exhaling. I reflected on taking a breather and the differences between the normal pace of my life and the exercise times.

When my spiritual life is in exercise phase I have regular prayer times and spontaneous moments, I’m in the Scriptures, I’m studying, I’m dreaming of what’s next, and I’m diving into relationships in accountable community. I’m working hard. I can feel the growth. The blood is pumping! I can feel the faith sweats of risk and trust. I’m locked in. Within the midst of this pace Sabbath—rest—exhale is hard.

Just as my physical body needs to work, using developed muscles to push the air out, I need spiritual disciplines to force me to exhale. 

It could be easy to buy-in to the idea of a slow pace—no pushing, strive, working hard on our spiritual life. The problem is you never grow. Just as you can’t get stronger, increase lung capacity or stroke volume by sitting on the couch, so it is the same in our spiritual lives.

When I’m at a normal pace, Sabbath is natural. The exhale is effortless. It requires no effort. After all, I’m not pushing, dreaming, falling into regular relationship building with God and others. I sit and get spiritually unfit.

God has not made me to be spiritually unfit. Nor has he made you that way either. 

We were made to be strong and fit. This is the struggle. 

Work too hard; you can have a heart attack. Don’t work at all; you can have a heart attack. We need spiritual disciplines. Bill Hull tells the importance of spiritual disciplines,

Spiritual disciplines are tools that prepare us to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and as it needs to be done.

Hull also points out to us that this isn’t about it always being “go” time. There is a balance within the work.

Jesus practices the disciplines in a healthy and balanced way. We don’t see him have any angst about them. He simply did what met the need of the moment. Some were staples in his spiritual diet, while he only used others on special occasions.

There are times when we need to work those spiritual muscles. Then there are times when we need to stop and take an effortless breath.

Living in the exhale isn’t real life, but neither is always having to work for it.

Let’s take a moment and breathe.

Now, let’s go work for the kingdom knowing that soon we must stop, let our spiritual body rest, and take some effortless breaths.

Check out the resources used in this post