Great Creative Expectations

https://embed.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius

I keep forgetting this TEDtalk exists. I had seen it first when I was in college learning to cope with the high expectations of creativity: that you have this creative resivoir that never ran dry and always pumped out good ideas. I had been taking 22 credit hours to graduate at the time. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing semester. My boyfriend had gotten kicked out of school and had to head back to California while I navigated my final semester on my own. I felt abandoned. Unsure. And all around used between my relationship that was long distance, and the demands of being a graphic design student in her final semester.

I had logged on to TED.com and just went to the category “Creativity” and just let it play through the videos randomly. This particular video had struck me so deeply that I remember feeling a sudden and complete sigh of relief. Going to a Christian school had its benefits, and the source of my creativity was one of them. God was the Creator who made me creative, and all my creativity was a source from Him. What a wonderful and reassuring affirmation.

I had forgotten about it, as I often do in my humanness. 

I was at work today when I heard it again. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing Tuesday. My creative juices exhausted as I attempted to come up with more and more variations of a package design for a product just new to the market. “A culinary innovation” I had thought, but then rejected for its cliche nature and discarded with the rest of my bad ideas. I needed feedback from our marketing director, who, of course, had blown me of for the past few days, and I was sure would do so again. 

I turned on TED.com for some videos on food. A desperate attempt to come up with some kind of revolutionary idea. Of course, I didn’t come up with anything. Instead I sat staring at the screen in hopes something would just come to me. A couple adjustments and mistakes were corrected, and as the talks kept speaking, I found myself less working on the project and desperate to be doing something else. The videos were relevant to my job after all, so who could really yell at me? Eventually I started clicking on videos in the side bar, craving information that was outside of my usual everyday, and looking for a challenge. Looking to learn something new.

I was about 5 videos into my listening when I played the video, and about five minutes into viewing it I had recalled having heard this talk before. As she spoke that sense of relief came over me again, but not in a religious or supernatural way (though that is still largely a part of my life), but in knowing I was one of a collaborative team. 

Collaboration is another buffer creatives can maintain to protect them from the stress, high expectations, and struggle of creativity. Being one of a group of people working towards the same goal certainly takes the pressure off. It makes sucesses more fun. It makes losses less burdensome. It makes the artists more humble knowing their work was part of a contribution, and it gives the artist an awareness that full credit cannot come to them for each success. They were part of a bigger story, a contributing part, but not the only contributing part. 

So as I sat in my chair, fully aware of how far behind this package design was, hearing my e-mails chime as they came in from the factory in China wondering how all that is going…I realized I can only go so far as my contribution allows. If we as a team are working together, I had to wait for the together part of it. I have exhausted my resources. I showed up for my part, and my marketing director had a lot of other parts he had to show up for too. So my job was as done as it could be until I got feedback. The pressure was off. I had done all I could do, and I was so thankful to find this TEDtalk again. 

The Call

A friend of mine posted on Facebook today: 

Ive been wanting to ask my fellow Christians an important political question today. As Christians we know that all of the troubles facing our society today are a result of our sinful brokenness. Poverty, oppression, the broken family structure, drug addiction, violence, these all stem from our sinful appetites. 
My question is: why do we look to the government to solve problem that humans by their own nature cannot fix? If the church truly is the body of Christ in this world, why do we look to others to fix the problems that Christ himself addressed. He didn’t condemn Herod or Caesar for not ending slavery or for not caring for the poor. He didn’t demand a minimum wage or free healthcare. He didn’t criticize the Romans violence and oppression. He didn’t come to say those things, and discussion of those topics are for another time. My point is that Christ came to call us to repentance and to a new life of true freedom. Freedom in spite of the brokenness of our world. We can be poor yet rich, broken yet whole, and return good for evil. Why do we expect a politician to do the work of the Holy Spirit? Republican or Democrat if you expect a bunch of men on a hill to accomplish the societal change that can only start with inner revival then you’re out of touch with reality. The Holy Spirit cant just be on Capitol Hill, or in the White House, or written in the law. It must be in the Church. It starts in our homes, on our streets, in our communities, in our hearts.

I suppose I have more questions than answers about this issue he describes prior to asking his point. 

Should we exclusively as churches deal with this issue or should we as Christians vote in candidates who will help steer the government in a direction to take care of people on a mass scale? Which does the most good? Can that even be quantified? I don’t know what the “most good” can even look like in a social climate prone to corruption and destruction. 

In our broken state, and even with the Holy Spirit, doesn’t the same kind of broken affect the Church as well? Wouldn’t that also mean that there is a possibility for corruptibility and if so would it do more harm in the sight of the world and “cause our brothers and sisters to stumble” if the Church to have a slip up? Would that be effective to the cause? Is such a slip up inevitable? Look at the issues of the Catholic Church and all those molestation accusations they had. How many people ran in shame and disappointment then? In counterpoint, those who stayed in the Church, how many forgave the kind of people who committed such atrocities? How does all that reflect on the record? 

In addition, would we run into the problem of the Church being a commodity instead of a spiritual and communal relationship? How does that affect the cause? 

How much has present government influence tied the Church’s hands? 
It’s such a big hot topic issue with so many scenarios and a lot of factors. None of which I think have a definitive or even correct answer. I still wonder if perhaps our fear of these questions and their potential results is what stops the Church from living up to its full potential. 
1 John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 
We have forgotten this. We have forgotten that throwing money at people and actually loving them are two different things. Can we even come back from going so far? Has the revival halted? As Christians, what is stopping us from using the full power of the Holy Spirit? 

Finally…

After several months of waiting and waiting, I had thought the ship had sailed. I was convinced and disappointed. It was a great position. Only five minutes from my house. What are the odds of that? Finding a corporate graphic design job only five minutes from my house in a tiny lakeside town very few people in the world had heard of? I thought it was impossible. Still, I waited. Nothing. I waited longer. Nothing. I e-mailed asking how things were going. I got a generic response of noncommittal and affirmation that they were still interviewing. I waited more.

Eventually my wedding came and went. Still nothing. I had given them the dates I would be “away” on my honeymoon, so part of me still hoped that  they were considering me and not counting me out. Still, there was that other part of me whispering that it wouldn’t happen. Not to me. It was too big of a step. Too much for me. There were so many other talents and people asking for less from them financially. Every doubt encircled my heart, and I became discouraged. Still, I was tired from looking for other jobs. I stopped looking. Kept going to work at retail, praying hard that God would open a door somewhere.

“We need another hand in the gift shop, and obviously we thought of you right away. It’d only be short hour, but it would give you a better financial situation.”

I was flattered that the Director of the museum wanted me to switch from volunteer to paid associate. I wanted to say yes, but he inquired about the interviews I had for the design position. I told him honestly that I hadn’t heard anything back, but I wasn’t sure what to expect really.

“There is a part of me that says I ought to wait on this.”

He nodded knowingly. Kindred spirit to my own.

“We can play it by ear, but by saying this, I have a feeling that I’m going to lose you to them. You’re talented and very special.”

I was so encouraged. A fellow designer, professional, and creative twice my senior thought I had what it took. I held on a little while longer to that little glimmer of hope. There was also a bit of relief knowing that even if I didn’t get the design job, money was going to come from somewhere. I wasn’t being left out here, trapped in a position in retail that wasn’t doing anything for me. I had options that would be supplemental, fulfilling, and use my expertise. I thanked God for listening to me, even if it was for a moment.

“Have you heard back from them babe?” My husband asked the evening he came home from his first day at his new job.

“No. The ship has sailed I think. It’s been nearly a month since I last heard anything.”

“You never know though.”

“I do know.”

I didn’t know.

That same evening my iPad told me I had an e-mail notification. It was them.

I got the job.

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