This week I’ve been on a Bristol Centre for Youth Ministry Community Week, where students across all three years retreat to Wales to spend time with God and each other, as well as learning from some essential lectures! It’s been a great week as I’ve got to know the students a lot better, and something one of them said in a piece of liturgy they were reading out during a worship service has really stuck with me.
“God who created you, is still creating you”
The first thing God did was to create, the ultimate aspect of his character is a creative; an artist, painting and sculpting and shaping. As we are made in his image we are created to create.
The description of God as a creative being or artist is one that has resonated with me better than any other, particularly as over the last few years I have begun to explore more of my own creativity. I remember hearing Rich Mullins talk about how God is a wild man, not the cultured, civilized God we think. It’s this side of God that I am deeply drawn to, this creative, mysterious, wild, unpredictable, unexplainable force that knows me and loves me. Despite my quest for answers I have found God to be more present in the questions, in the mystery, in the unknown. This is where art belongs. It is always mysterious, sometimes slightly confusing or frustrating and yet it reveals so much of who we are, and who God is.
One of my favourite ever movies is a slightly odd film directed by Richard Linklater called ‘Waking Life’, where a teenager walks around having conversations with people trying to figure out whether life is real or whether it is a dream. The conversations he has are deep, mindblowing and challenging, ranging from theology to philosophy and everything in between. Each scene is a little movie in itself! One scene is two friends talking in a coffee shop;
“When I was younger, there was a desperation, a desire for certainty, like there was an end to the path, and I had to get there.”
“I know what you mean because I can remember thinking, ‘Oh, someday, like in my mid-thirties maybe, everything’s going to just somehow gel and settle, just end.’ It was like there was this plateau, and it was waiting for me, and I was climbing up it, and when I got to the top, all growth and change would stop.”
I remember watching that at the time feeling that I was in that younger stage, of chasing and striving to become what I would be, and that one day I would reach this point where I had ‘made it’ and I would be able to relax and just live my life as this finished person.
Due to lots of learning and change over the last couple of years, I do feel there has been a ‘settling’ of sorts. A kind of letting go, or at least an acceptance that this is who I am, this is my life now and who I am now is pretty much who I will be forever. Although this has been freeing in some ways, it is also disappointing. Despite the circumstances in my life being great at the moment this thought has bothered me continuously over the past few weeks.
It’s disappointing because there are so many things about myself I hoped would have changed by now; deep wounds, character flaws, unhelpful patterns of thinking and low self-confidence. Who I am is not who I hoped I would become, despite my best efforts. I thought by now I would be…better. The chase is over and I am not the person I dreamed I could be.
I’ve forgotten God isn’t done creating. I am not finished.
What a comforting thought, that who I am right now is not the end of my story. That God is still painting and sculpting and shaping and drawing and editing me…and that in his mind he sees his finished creation, a masterpiece he has crafted from dust. As if this wasn’t enough, even when I smear the painting or chip the sculpture, God just carves or paints it into something else. He endlessly recreates what others and I destroy.
It’s that ‘now and not yet’ metaphor. There are glimpses of God’s work in me, moments of genius and beauty, a deposit of what is to come, a sign of the future. But there are glimpses of corruption and pollution, devastation and evil, a reminder of the darkness that exists in the world, the war that I am a part of, raging within me. The now and not yet fight, as one kingdom tries to invade the other, and I am a mesh of both, a slimy caterpillar hiding in the cocoon of my partly finished physical form until I can burst out and fly away as the being I was born to become. Everything we see on this earth is only a partial glimpse and we will never be fully made, completed, until the end of this age.
This reassures me! I am not who I want to be, but I’m not who I was or who I will be. There is so much more God will do. Outwardly I am wasting away but inwardly I am being renewed day by day! (2 Corinthians 4:16)
God had an idea to create a masterpiece. God created me, and he is still creating me. He is editing and carving and painting and sculpting and molding and making and shaping and one day, I will be finished.