What problems do I have before me this week? Figuring out how to involve more students in leadership in campus ministry, planning for fall programs, and setting up a better writing schedule are just a few. I’m ready to go – but somewhere deep within I recognize that students won’t quickly fall in line with my ideas, plans for a few months in the future will lack energy, and another writing schedule will fall apart. Life will get in the way and I’ll again wonder how to solve these and other problems better. But maybe this is the wrong attitude? Maybe there’s another mind set that I could take into the week – not of solving a problem, but being part of a continuous work of creation.
Idea. Energy. Power. These are three elements that go into the creation of a work of art: the original idea, the incarnation of the idea, and the effect of this energized idea on those who interact with it. It’s a continual relationship and conversation. This could also be another view of the Trinity – the thee-in-one Godhead that Christians are always trying to explain but yet can’t fully grasp. I’m intrigued by Dorothy Sayers’ exploration of this trinity in The Mind of the Maker as she, herself a thoughtful creator, uses the work of the artist as an analogy of God’s working in the world.
I was particularly drawn into her discussion of problem solving versus creatively addressing the world. She posits that in the industrialized world we seek to define problems and then search for a solution. Like detective novels, of which Sayers is an expert, there is a satisfaction in having a clear and bounded problem – solving the crime – that will resolve by the novel’s end. She understands the populations’ interest in such books, puzzles, and other solution-based activities as a “vicarious sensation of achievement.” When a solution is reached, the doer can rest. It is finished. I see this attitude in today’s culture. We want the results now and expect them to fulfill our needs. Searching for information on the internet, texting friends – everything happens instantly.
But in reality, how much in life is really a problem to be solved? Can these small achievements truly satisfy in the long run? I begin each day with a simple crossword puzzle because I enjoy the feeling of completing something. Yet, when I’m finished, there’s nothing really that I gained except this “sensation of achievement.” It’s not until I head into the mess of putting together blog posts, editing a book that’s been hanging on for years, planning campus ministry events, and having students drop by unexpectedly that I recognize there really isn’t a solution that will organize this chaos.
Part of me wants to complete work, close the calendar, and say it is done. I can then rest. But that never happens. Once I think I have finished an job – say a schedule for the next semester – the reality of working with people enters. Maybe on one level I have solved some problems of organizing and planning a schedule, but on a larger level I am creating opportunities for people to interact with one another and with God. Once such relationships enter the picture, there is no real ending or solution. Instead the events or solutions are jumping off points for something new.
As Sayers would describe this process – a person has an idea, the idea is incarnated in a finished work, but an essential part of that created work is how it affects people who interact with it. In this continual conversation, people exist in an active role. We are within God’s larger creation that involves God’s Idea of creation at the beginning of the world and ongoing even now, God’s Incarnated Energy in the person of Jesus Christ and his life on earth, and God’s Power of the Holy Spirit.
It’s amazing to be part of this continual creation. When I look at it this way I don’t want to stay stuck in a problem solving world – although there will be problems to be solved from time to time. I want to be swept up in the energy of the ultimate Creator.