The Word in the Wings
The Word in the Wings > From the study: inspired to create
From the study: inspired to create
By: KAYA PRASAD
“Inspire” is a word with several layers of meaning that tie together Christian theology and artistic making. The Latin root spiritus can mean “breath” or “spirit.” Inspiration in dance may refer to a feeling or idea that motivates an artist to make something–a metaphorical animating force, if you will–but on a literal level, it points to the breath that animates a body in motion.
A biblical description of that breath’s origin is found in Genesis 2:7:
…then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.
The being who breathes into the human body to give it movement and life–who physically inspires the human being–is God.
Not only that, but the Bible credits God’s spirit with artistic inspiration as well. In Exodus 31:2-5, God gives Moses instructions for constructing a space of worship and says,
“See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft.”
God’s spirit fills the craftsman Bezalel so that he may exercise skill in creating metal- and stonework for the tabernacle. God’s spirit fills the artist with the ability to create beautiful works for the sake of worshiping God.
Being inspired to create, from a Christian theological standpoint, is more than having a random stroke of artistic genius. It’s being in step with God’s spirit; it involves reading God’s word and praying, and it involves seeking understanding of God, of the world God created, and of the created materials we work with in our craft. It’s applying that knowledge, verbal and sensory, that comes through a relationship with God to the task of creating art works of our own.
When Christian artists follow the leading of God’s spirit to create, we participate in God’s ongoing creative activity. The narrative arc of Scripture moves from Creation to New Creation. In Genesis 2:8-9 we read that God plants a garden:
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
And Revelation 22:1-2 paints a picture of a garden in the midst of a city:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
The trees and the abundance that God first created in the beginning also persist in God’s renewed creation. In addition, the New Creation includes a city with streets–products of human innovation and creation. Because of humanity’s redemption through Jesus, God’s spirit empowers us to take an active part in the New Creation.
Visual artist Makoto Fujimura writes that “God’s exuberant love invites us, broken vessels of God’s choosing, to co-create…It means to be invited to a dance, invited by God’s grace to be on the stage, to step into a journey of New Creation that we do not yet fully understand.”
As creatures who reflect the image of the creative God, we embrace our own creative capacities as gifts that God has given for the sake of our participation in God’s purposes of redeeming the world and bringing about the fullness of New Creation.
Scripture quotations in this post are from the New Revised Standard Version.
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