The house was finally quiet.
Basking in the unfamiliar, almost unsettling silence, I settled myself into a corner of the cluttered sofa and attempted to organize my thoughts. Though my brain had been buzzing with ideas all day, it was choosing now to rebel in the face of the immense pressure to capitalize on this unexpected opportunity. My mind was blank. The inspiration poised to pour out on my page nowhere to be found.
As the words, weak and faltering at first, finally began to flow, I heard a sweet, sing-song voice call to me from another room:
“Mama! Where are you?”
I closed my eyes as though willing myself not to be seen—the mom equivalent of ‘playing dead’ I suppose. Not to be thwarted, however, I soon heard the pitter patter of little feet on wooden floors before two baby blue eyes peered at me earnestly over the top of my laptop screen. “Mama, are you done yet?”
And with that, my precious writing time was over for another day—with very little to show for it.
I felt the conflict deep in my soul: Why had God given me this calling when I didn’t have the time and opportunity to actually make it happen? And was it truly worth all the effort and sacrifice it took to keep going?
CREATED TO CREATE
No matter what creative calling God has placed on our lives, we can be under no illusion that we will, at some time or another, all face disappointing and discouraging seasons.
The enemy will stop at nothing to derail God’s purposes, and the seeds of self doubt—“the worst enemy to creativity” in the words of Sylvia Plath—that he inevitably sows will be an unwelcome yet unavoidable bump in the road for each one of us.
The question is: How will we choose to respond?
As dearly loved, uniquely created women with a divinely appointed calling and purpose, we must find a way to persevere through these dry, difficult creative seasons without giving up or prematurely throwing in the towel. And to do that, to press on toward the goal set before us (Philippians 3:14), first we must remember the why.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf writes: “The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” It is no wonder we have an innate desire to create when we were created in the image of the Ultimate Creator (Genesis 1:27). And, by using the gifts and developing the passions He has created within us, we are honoring Him, glorifying Him, and responding to Him with gratitude and worship. As the psalmist extols in Psalm 145:10: “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD.” That’s us! We are His works and His workmanship—called to create and created to worship, reflecting but small glimpses of His glory in return.
As we face seasons of discouragement, we must go back to the foundational truth that we were created to create; reflecting unique and glorious facets of the Father with every expression of our God-given gifts. This is our why; this is what sustains us when self doubt comes knocking at the door, and our reason for returning again and again to the work that we have been called—and created—to do.
NOT YOU BUT GOD IN YOU
Putting our creative efforts ‘out there’ for all the world to see is a vulnerable and risky process. Oh, we relish the positive feedback, of course, but what about the negative press? What if the comments are less than favorable, or there aren’t any comments at all?
When I am tempted to pridefully take credit for my creative successes or bear the weight of my ‘failures’, I must remember that it’s not about me at all. Isaiah 26:12 says “You will give us prosperity, Lord; everything that we achieve is the result of what YOU do” (GNT).
In Acts 9:15, when Ananias doubted if Paul was really the one God had chosen to minister to the Gentiles, God described him as “a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name.” Paul understood the sentiment. Later in his ministry, he wrote in Romans 15:18-19, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.”
Like Paul, my creative effort is an outpouring of God working in me through His Spirit. It is His power, His creativity, His insight, His words. Without Him, I have nothing to offer.
As you face a discouraging season, it may be necessary to move aside, swallow your pride, and remember when it comes to utilizing your creative gifts for the Kingdom of God, it is not you, but “God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV).
TRUST IN HIS PURPOSES AND TIMING
I first started writing when my second child was born. In the midst of my exhaustion, the words came pouring out of me like an unstoppable faucet, a gift from God in an overwhelming and unrelenting season. I couldn’t help but feel validated and purposeful, cementing the idea I was living out my calling the way I was ‘supposed to’. And then life got in the way—two young children, part-time employment, a pandemic, and a myriad of other distractions and needs that go hand in hand with this particular season of life.
Yet in Ecclesiastes 3:1 Solomon cautions, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
This is the reminder I so often need that though God has given me an innate desire to create, it is not at the expense of everything else He has called me to ‘right now’. This season of life with its chaos and struggles and everyday, simple joys has its own distinct purpose ordained by God, and by wishing it away, I am denying myself the very blessings He has granted within it.
When I am tempted to view my efforts through a worldly lens—setting arbitrary achievements and goals as a means of measuring my ‘success’ in a given area—I must remember this is not the way of God (Isaiah 55:8). He is in the Kingdom-building business, and we are privileged to play even the smallest role—even if it doesn’t always happen in the way or timescale we had envisioned.
Proverbs 19:21 says “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” When seasons of discouragement threaten, we must be careful not to cling to self imposed pressures of where we think we ‘should be’ and instead embrace the season and the gifts that this distinct season holds—surrendering our creative efforts to God’s perfect timing, or risk not creating anything at all.
These seasons of life, which may look a lot like stalling, may in fact be necessary periods of growth and preparation for our future creative selves to thrive—as long as we persevere long enough to find out.
“Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” Bruce Garrabrant
This season, I will continue to squeeze my creative efforts into the margins of my day—in the early morning hours before the household wakes, on cluttered sofas sandwiched between snuggly girls, and in the fading evening light as the world sleeps. There will no doubt continue to be rejection letters, missed opportunities, and dreams that do not (yet) come to fruition as discouragement and self doubt cast their unwelcome shadow on my progress. But I will persevere. I will keep creating when and where I can, and with my words I will worship my King. That, my friends, can and will be more than enough.
How have you overcome discouraging seasons in your own creative pursuits? Share with us in the comments!
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