Creativity has always been and will always be a tool for building paradise. God made us creative to spread the beauty of Eden to the rest of the world through our creative work. The problem started when sin got in the way. We stopped building God’s paradise and started to build our own. The issue isn’t that we’re using our creativity to create paradise. It’s that we are building the wrong one. We’re using our creativity to build a dead-end road, one that ends in our own selfish gain and ingrown purposes.
God calls us to a better way. He shows us how to use our creativity to build an onramp to the King’s highway, the road to the new Jerusalem.
We Need a World That Lasts
When we disconnect our creativity from God’s new creation, it sends shockwaves through every part of our lives. If there is no future hope, our creativity either becomes shortsighted, or it tries to fill the void left by God’s promises on its own. When we reject God’s future, we will manipulate our creativity to make another one that we try to convince ourselves will somehow overshadow his.
As a result, everything about us, including our creative work, becomes locked into this world. In an attempt to be good-natured, many of us will diligently use our creativity to try to change the world and overcome the prejudices and injustices mounting up against us. Yet notice how even this work assumes God. Where do you think your impulse for justice came from, and who do you think will execute perfect and final justice when it counts?
Further, for there to be lasting change, we need a world that lasts. If there is no eternity, then why does justice matter? Let’s just eat and drink, for tomorrow we die (1 Cor. 15:32). Even as we try to sweep God and his righteousness out the front door of our lives, we smuggle in assumptions about him through the back with our attempts to make the world righteous and good through our creativity. This exposes an important truth: the justice so much of our creativity was meant to work toward is eschatological and divinely determined. Justice only matters if our future matters, and our future only matters if God directs the world to his righteous ends, overcoming evil once for all while making all things new.
Justice only matters if our future matters, and our future only matters if God directs the world to his righteous ends, decisively overcoming evil once for all while making all things new.
Not only will we try to make a future with our creativity; we will try to make creativity our future. This happens all the time. When we are so enamored with the beauty of the world, we forget that God has offered us something better. It’s like staring at a campfire you made. Sure, it’s beautiful to watch the flames dance for a time. But don’t let it keep you from looking to the night sky. God has sprinkled it with stars that produce light and flame far superior to your fire.
When the beauty of the world captures us for too long, we cut ourselves off from God’s bigger world and his vision for our creativity. And when this happens, we make our lives about making beautiful things for themselves. This becomes our future. The only things worthy of our time and our lives, then, are our creative acts—things beautiful in the world’s eyes. Without a future, we settle for what’s in front of our eyes and what we produce with our hands. And when all we have are the small trinkets of our own making, we are cut off from the eternal beauty that awaits in the new heavens and new earth.
Drawbacks of Futureless Creativity
But our art cannot hold up the weight of our needs, assumptions, desires, and purpose. It was never meant to. When we try to replace God’s future promises with our own creativity, we end up breaking our souls. We no longer know why we create. At best, our creativity becomes self-serving. We may talk a good game in in the public square, but when we’re alone, we can’t help but feel empty and hollow. That’s when we notice that we’re not creating for God anymore. We’re creating just to keep up appearances, to assuage the critic, to fool the masses, and the keep the money or the fame or the machine going. Our creativity has begun to re-create us, and when we’re not on stage, we don’t like being around the person who is always with us in the green room. And yet we continue to climb up on the rickety pedestal. We keep pushing our agenda, all while forgetting the reason we started doing this in the first place. In the silence, we question our art, our motives, our reasons, and our identity. But we can’t stop now. Our followers wouldn’t want us to, and our “creativity” won’t let us.
That’s the drawback of a futureless creativity. It helps us become who we want to be or what the world demands of us, but it sacrifices our God-given identity in the end. We play for the crowds or for our ego, but not for our God.
Our Art Is Not the World’s Hope
This is why the new creation is so important. God’s future promises teach us that the hope of the world is not our art. It is God dwelling with humanity in the new heaven and new earth, where tears, death, mourning, crying, and pain shall be no more (Rev. 21:1–4). This stops your compass of purpose, worth, and identity from spinning out of control. It gives a due north that you can point your creativity toward. Your creativity isn’t your future; God is.
Your creativity isn’t your future; God is.
And this is a very good thing. First, it gives us a proper perspective. God alone is worthy. He created the world, created you, created your creativity, re-created you, re-created your creativity, and re-created the world. He gets first chair. Actually the only chair.
And second, it means your creativity doesn’t have to hold up the world. God already does. Rest defines our experience in the new creation. Not just a quick-Sunday-nap type of rest but deep, anxiety-destroying, peace-inducing rest. And this new-creation rest has broken into this world in many ways. There is great peace knowing that your next creative piece does not determine the trajectory of the world. It never could, and you wouldn’t want it to.
The hope of the new creation should fuel your creativity with God’s perspective and rest. It gives your work a proper beginning and a perfect ending. It looks back to what God started, what he re-created, and what he promises is to come.