The Call to Create
This is more along the lines of an earlier Forum post discussing C.S. Lewis' group of friends, the Inklings, and the creative fellowship they experienced together--excerpts of a devotional on Bible.com:
The first thing God revealed about Himself in Scripture is not that He is loving, holy, omnipotent, gracious, or just. No, the first thing God showed us is that He is creative! For the first six days, God revealed His creative spirit by speaking stars, animals, and oceans into existence. Then, on the sixth day, He created man “in His own image” and called Adam to create, thus reflecting God’s image to the world.
To call a human being “creative” is redundant. We are all made in the image of the Creator God. But as Romans 12 makes clear, each of us has “different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” Some of us have clearly been granted more creative talents than others.
C.S. Lewis committed his life to Jesus Christ at the age of 32; he was already on the path to a successful career as an academic and writer. While Lewis’s newfound understanding of the redemptive work of Christ didn’t cause him to abandon his work as an author, his conversion clearly caused him to reimagine his work as service to God and a means of redeeming His creation.
As Lewis once wrote in a letter, “The question is not whether we should bring God into our work. We certainly should and must. The question is whether we should simply (a.) Bring Him in in the dedication of our work to Him, in the integrity, diligence, and humility with which we do it or also (b.) Make His professed and explicit service our job.” Lewis’s faith didn’t change his work. It changed his relation to his work by allowing it to impact his motivations for creating, what he created, and how he created.
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, Lewis, did not lock himself in a room until he came up with an idea for a series of books that would reveal the redemptive character of God. As Lewis once explained, “Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. All my seven Narnian books began with seeing pictures in my head. [The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe] began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: ‘Let's try to make a story about it.’ At first I had very little idea how the story would go. But then suddenly Aslan came bounding into it...once He was there He pulled the whole story together.”
Like Lewis, our product ideas will likely not come from brainstorming sessions where we focus intensely on how we can create a product that reveals God’s character. But as we begin to work and we “let the Word of Christ dwell in [us] richly (Colossians 3:16)” we will undoubtedly see how we can use our creations to reveal the character of our Creator and his plans to redeem the world.
If our work is to feel like a calling, we, like Lewis, must be willing to allow the True Aslan to come “bounding into” every aspect of our lives, including our work. Reimagining our work as a response to the redemptive work of Christ changes our motivations for creating and the products we choose to create. Viewing our work as a calling from God also changes how we create.
The Bible offers a tremendous amount of insight into how we should work: With excellence, integrity, diligence, and graciousness. But what’s often overlooked is the need to work and create in community with other believers. We must surround ourselves with fellow Christians who can help “renew our minds (Romans 12:2)” with eternal perspective as we create.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Oxford was home to some of the world’s greatest Christian minds, including Charles Williams, Hugo Dyson, Owen Barfield, and most famously, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and his brother Warnie Lewis. This group of friends, known simply as the Inklings, shared a love of the Lord and literature, each of them following God’s call to create through their writings. But they did not create in isolation. For nearly two decades, the group met on a near-weekly basis to read aloud their latest writings, get feedback from the other members of the group, drink a pint of beer, and help renew each other’s minds with regards to their Christian faith.
Without constant communion with other believers to refresh their eternal perspectives, Tolkien may have never completed The Lord of the Rings and Lewis may have never finished The Chronicles of Narnia. Like these creators before us, we need regular communion with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to renew our minds and refresh the lenses through which we view the world as we work.
If our work is to feel like a vocation—a true calling on our lives—we must be willing reimagine our work as service to God and others. When we do, we will find the redemptive work of the True Aslan, Jesus Christ, changing our motivations for work, the products we choose to create, and how we go about our work each day, in community with like-minded Christ-followers.
"Loneliness is something that happens to us, but I think it is something we can move ourselves out of. I think a person who is lonely should dig into a community, give himself to a community, humble himself before his friends, initiate community, teach people to care for each other, love each other. Jesus does not want us floating through space or sitting in front of our televisions. Jesus wants us interacting, eating together, laughing together, praying together. Loneliness is something that came with the fall. If loving other people is a bit of heaven, then certainly isolation is a bit of hell, and to that degree, here on earth, we decide in which state we would like to live."