Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The spirituality of creativity, part 2: The four spiritual gifts

Image by Eddi 07

Welcome back for part two of this impromptu series on the spirituality of creativity! (See part 1 here.) Today's topic: the four spiritual gifts borne of creativity.

1. Connecting with your Creator.

We've all heard it before -- we are made in the image and likeness of God. So when we refer to God as our Creator, doesn't that mean that creativity extends to us too?

In this way, according to Fr. Ryan, creativity gives us direct recognition and communion with God. Moreover, art is an act of participation in the eternal act of creation.

This direct connection opens up new realms of intimacy with the divine. As Fr. Ryan put it, "the holy will meet us when it chooses" and draw out what is deepest and best in us. So when all is said and done, the urge to be creative -- in whatever capacity fits our gifts -- is really a longing to be in God's presence.

2. Awakening more fully to life.

There is a verse in the Koran that describes God as "closer than our jugular." Such constant nearness, according to Fr. Ryan, manifests itself in the matter of creation -- namely, the world around us and the way we exist within it.

Fr. Ryan then asked us, "Are we aware of the matter of creation?" Do we recognize, as poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, that "the world is charged with the grandeur of God?"

Side note: I originally thought Fr. Ryan quoted this as "the world is charged with a granular God." I think I like this better, because it reminds me God is at work in the tiniest elements of our existence.

Nature poets perceive Nature as an expression of revelation. And Celtic spirituality follows two books -- the little book being the Bible, and the big book being God's entire creation. In this vein, when we acknowledge our inherent creativity, we also awaken to and connect with the wider creation around us.

3. Unleashing the power of imagination.

Fr. Ryan kicked this explanation off by saying, "The creative process begins when powerful experiences drive us inward." There, we reflect, question, and strive to comprehend what's going on.

Creativity helps us express that encounter. And in the time between those reflective periods, it keeps the hinges oiled by experiencing other art -- thus feeding your imagination.

Here's another Fr. Ryan quote that struck me: "In art, we are seeing someone else's secrets and exposing our own." To me, this is the equivalent of having your senses laid bare. You are at once vulnerable and fortified, because you're more keenly aware of what's happening in the life around you. The result: fertile ground for imaginative exploration.

4. Enjoying the surprise of grace.

Fr. Ryan opened with this quote: "[Lord,] You do marvelous things with the imperfect instrument that I am." When we realize God is working through us, inspiring us, driving us to these fonts of creativity, that's when we feel grace.

As Fr. Ryan pointed out, even the disciples were surprised -- when the tomb was empty, when they met Jesus on the road after the Resurrection, when he appeared in the upper room. They were as close to him as close can be, and still they were caught off guard by his constant presence.

So it is with us when we're exercising our creativity. I can speak personally to this one; every time I remember or realize or am reminded that I am meant to write, I'm shocked ... as if I haven't told in 8 million different ways in my heart that this is precisely my calling.

So where does this leave us? We'll look at how we can apply this thinking and these gifts in our lives in the next post. In the meantime, feel free to share your reflections or questions in the comments section. Thanks!

(You can check out parts one and three here.)

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