During the seven years I worked with Notre Dame AmeriCorps, Sister Judy Tensing would always admonish AmeriCorps members to live their one life fully – their one precious life. The eleven months they were serving a local non-profit were not merely a time to get through, it was a part of the limited years we all have. How we choose to live them, no matter the circumstances that surround us, shapes our character. As I listened to her, I would sit back and continue to be amazed that people would give a year of their lives for such work. Since I was a staff member, I saw myself looking from the outside, not really catching that this statement was also for me.
Three years after moving on from this job, I heard echoes of this sentiment in the words of Ann Voskamp – we should live our one creative life fully, making it a gift back to God. Later in the week I heard the words of Shane Claiborne that we should engage the broken world with the creativity of our lives. Throughout the time at the 2012 Festival of Faith and Writing other speakers would say similar things. Our creativity is not something to take out only when time allows, or only for those appropriately gifted, or once all the real work is done. No, creativity is a response to life. This one life that God has given us.
This creative life implies each person has her own response to creation in her life – not something to be copied. It’s part of being made in God’s image, the ultimate creator. Not a cog in a wheel or a nameless part of an assembly line. Not something to be saved up for special moments. However, it’s so easy to do the opposite. When I have time I’ll be creative. When the space is available. When I am sitting on the edge of the ocean. Always later I will be creative. But the perfect time and place don’t seem to present themselves. Often I just want to get through the next hours. I can’t imagine another path.
Yet, as these words of living our full lives weave through my mind, I realize that most days I’m not looking at this path fully or seeing the person in front of me as an image of God. Usually I’m thinking about the next thing on my to-do list. With such a limited vision, how is it possible to access that creative part of self?
There is more to life than the narrow images before me. It is possible to look up and out and view a new way. It may start with a simple practice of taking time between activities to breathe and acknowledge the reality around me in a given moment. Eventually I may see the beauty in the lines of numbers on a spreadsheet, in the flower growing out of a cracked sidewalk, and in a crying child.
Where does this spark of creativity lie in you? In six days God created the world. He imagined and spoke it into being – filling it with life and creating humans to be a central part of it. We can carry a bit of this creativity in the midst of our own worlds – no matter what they look like now.