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by April Fiet
I have had a headache for almost a week straight. I’m not exactly sure what caused it, but it probably had something to do with either the stress of moving in a week, or way too many sleepless nights in a row, or waking up to a bat flying over my head in my bedroom, or the disaster that is my house at the moment.
Whatever the root cause might be (though I’m sure it’s probably a combination of everything), I have dealt with this lingering, dull ache for days. My shoulders have been tight, my whole body tense, my mind cloudy. And I’ve felt so busy. Even when I should have been able to take a moment to relax, I just couldn’t clear my head.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I would like to take a painting class with her. I have always wanted to try my hand at painting, and I thought it would be a great way to spend time with my friend before I move to Nebraska. I looked at the date on my calendar, and was excited to see that I was able to sign up for the class. I called and registered, and then got bogged down by all the details and frenzy of buying a house, saying goodbye to so many people I love, and preparing my kids for the changes we will be going through in the near future.
This morning, after yet another night of terrible sleep, I woke up with the headache that I was starting to think would never go away. I made myself a cup of coffee, ate a light breakfast, and headed out the door to meet up with my friend for our art class.
For the next three hours, I learned about perspective, stippling, and shading, and worked to create my picture of an up-close sunflower in the style of Georgia O’Keeffe. The to-do lists, stress, and anxiety melted away with every brush stroke, and by the time I finished my painting, the headache was gone.
Studies have been done that have proven the benefits of creativity. Things like painting, knitting, and crocheting interrupt the fight-or-flight processes of our brains and cause us to focus singularly on one thing at a time. It clears the mind, just like meditation. While we are creating, we cannot do anything else. We cannot worry. We cannot make plans. Creation interrupts everything and brings order where there hadn’t been any before.
It turns out that creativity is an important part of what it means to be human, which shouldn’t surprise us given that we are made in the image of the Creator God. Out of the chaos, the formless void, the deep, God brought order through creativity. Out of the cosmic nothingness, God brought into being everything. From nothing to everything through creativity.
But—at least for me—it seems that the more chaotic my life becomes, the less I make space for creativity. Imagination and creation get pushed out, while the stress comes pouring in. As a college student, I learned that singing for ten minutes before I went to take an exam helped me to remember what I had studied. Cramming only reminded me of what I didn’t remember, and it defeated me.
My time in the art studio reminded me that life isn’t something I can cram for; it is an art that must be practiced creatively. In making space for creativity and imagination, we reconnect with who we are in the image of God. And, when we do that, we might find that we’re surprised at how all the chaotic bits in our lives fall into place—perhaps not perfectly, but in a way that brings joy and abundance to life.
April Fiet is a mom of two, school-age kids, and a co-pastor of Dumont Reformed Church in Dumont, Iowa, alongside her husband Jeff.