This article is adapted from Ashlee Gadd’s new book, Create Anyway, and is part of our new Made to Create article series. Read the other articles in the series here:
- “Making Music for God’s Glory” by Caroline Cobb
- “Order from Chaos” by Abbey Wedgeworth
- “Opening Our Eyes to Art" by Sarah Shin
- "A Liturgy for Your Words" by Kate Lab
- "A Welcoming Home" by Rachael Milner
Made to Create
Days after my son Everett turned three, he gave up his nap cold turkey. Poof! Just like that. After a few rough weeks for both of us, I realized I wasn’t ready for naptime to end. So, I did what any other former marketing professional would do: I rebranded naptime. I gave it a new name, a sparkly new logo, a whole new elevator pitch. Moving forward, naptime would be known as Quiet Time.
Every day, I started putting the baby gate on the doorframe of Everett’s bedroom. I’d turn on all the lights, crank up a kid-friendly playlist, get all his favorite toys down from the top of the closet, and leave him in there to play alone. We started at twenty minutes a day, then upped it to thirty, then forty, and so on. Eventually, we worked our way up to an hour of quiet time each day, and I hailed myself a parental genius. (Isn’t it incredible how first-time moms go from clueless to expert in the span of a few years? Bless.)
Much to my delight, Everett began using his quiet time to build things. He would gather all his blocks, magnetic tiles, and Hot Wheels, then construct little creations all over the floor. He’d create castles and car washes and racetracks. One time, he even built a “Target”—an adorable nod to a place where we had already spent too much time and money during his short life.
I became equal parts fascinated, impressed, and inspired by his creativity. At three years old, without any prompting whatsoever, my son aspired to make order from chaos. To imagine what was possible. To take a messy pile of toys and turn it into a masterpiece. Peering in at him from the hallway one day, I couldn’t help but wonder, Where did he learn this? Where did this desire to create come from?
Create in God’s Image
One of the first things we learn about God in Scripture is that he created, and one of the first things we learn about ourselves is that we are made in his likeness (Gen. 1:26). If God is the first artist—and we are a walking, breathing reflection of him—this means our desire to create is hereditary, a fundamental imprint of his Spirit in us.
Right off the bat, God tasks humankind with taking care of the earth and naming the animals (Gen. 2:15, 19). From the very beginning, God calls us to be good stewards of his creation and invites us to co-create with him. God filled the world with good things and calls us to do the same—to showcase hope, light, beauty, and restoration as part of the ongoing process of God’s glory infusing the earth.
God did not create us to be mere spectators, watching on the sidelines inhaling popcorn while he does all the work. Rather, he invites us to be active participants, co-laborers in making the invisible kingdom visible. The act of creating is part of our calling as image-bearers.
Permission to Create
My son Everett is now nine. He’s swapped Magna-Tiles for LEGOs, and I no longer barricade him in his room for an hour a day. But his desire to create? It’s still there, strong as ever. A few weeks ago, he created a “squirrel trap” in the backyard. I was slightly horrified when he told me, until I realized what he had actually made was more of a feeding trough. He had filled a basket with oranges from the neighbor’s tree, along with a handful of trail mix and a small bowl of peanut butter. Then, using a bungee cord he found in the yard, he hung the basket from a tree branch and built a set of brick “stairs” for the squirrels to reach it.
That day, I realized my kids never ask permission to create. Every day, they simply gather what’s in front of them and begin making stuff: puppet shows and origami, domino towers and squirrel traps. I don’t know if it’s ever occurred to my children to ask whether or not they could create, whether or not they are allowed to. For them, the act of creating is a given, a birthright. Anything in this house, this garage, this yard, is fair game for masterpiece-building.
And so it is with us.
How many times do we hand our children blocks, Play-Doh, crayons, and tell them to go nuts? Here, kids, go make something.
Just like our children, we, too, are surrounded by raw materials brimming with possibility. God’s given us the earth so we can garden. He’s given us words and language so we can tell stories and record miracles. He’s given us heat and metal and elements that bend so we can shape things with our hands. And he’s given us light, color, texture, food, music, senses that engage and make us feel alive. Here, kids, go make something.
There is no better permission slip than this: to know and believe with your whole heart that the God who made you, the same God who designed blueprints for the galaxies and poured the foundation of the earth, designed you in his likeness, on purpose, for a purpose.
Permission to create is running through your blood, your bones, every strand of DNA embedded in the body God made from dust. You have permission to pursue your creative gifts as a testament to who God created you to be. You have permission to make beautiful things in a broken world as a testament to God’s grace mightily at work in you.
Commissioned to Create
I once heard someone describe good instructors as those who bring oxygen into a room. I love that phrase, and I believe it applies to artists as well. When we make art, we bring oxygen into the room. We give people something true and beautiful to breathe in.
When we pay attention to the world, to the flowers growing in the cracks of sidewalks, we model an appreciation for beauty and creation. When we walk confidently in the talents God has given us, we model faithfulness, obedience, and stewardship.
Ultimately, when we engage in creative acts, when we write and draw and plant seeds in the dirt, when we create lovely things that point back to the goodness of our Maker, we are giving an account of the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).
All of this matters.
Creativity is not trivial, or selfish, or a waste of time.
You and I have been commissioned to create from the very start, by an infinitely creative God. Creativity is a fundamental part of being human, of being an image-bearer, of being alive.
Meet the Author
Ashlee Gadd is a wife, mother of three, and the founder of Coffee + Crumbs. When she's not working or vacuuming Cheerios out of the carpet, she loves making friends on the Internet, eating cereal for dinner, and rearranging bookshelves. Running Coffee + Crumbs is her dream job. You can find her online at www.ashleegadd.com.