You see, these two holiday months-November and December- don’t create warm fuzzy feelings in me. I am not thankful this time of year. I have whole lists (and probably lists upon lists if I am honest) of what I am missing in my life, places that have come up dry and hard, painful and sore. Missing holes that I’ve asked the Lord to fill, but for now He has chosen not to. It’s a hard season to swallow for me. It’s a hard season for me to be thankful.
Holes and wounds and brokenness- they just aren’t things we associate with thankfulness. But this season is about thankfulness isn’t it? Isn’t it about “1000 gifts”, prayers of thankfulness, and acknowledging those we love?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s about those things, or maybe it’s a season in the year to just endure. I can keep my lists of all the things I don’t have that seem profoundly long this time of the year and grow frustrated and lonely. But then there’s this concept of gratefulness that I do have.
Gratefulness: warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received.
Gratefulness reveals a deep warmth of appreciation. It indicates something much deeper than thankfulness. It expresses the generosity of God in his Personhood (good, warm, loving, receptive, attentive, available). Gratefulness is receiving all the things I never knew I wanted but God gave me. I didn’t ask for them. I never prayed for them, but He gave them to me anyways.
Rather than listing all the things I am thankful for (don’t get me wrong, that is a good practice of the heart too!), I want to reflect on all the ways God gave me things I hold so dear now, that I never knew I wanted and never asked for in a few installments over the next few weeks. Check out part one here and part two here. Here’s the third:
God gave me creativity and play.
When creating is a priority in my life, I function better. I like to play. I used to think it was childish, immature even. I was the worst of critiques. When another person acted playful, I would search for social cues on the faces of those around me to figure out if this form of “playfulness” or creativity was “appropriate” for (fill in the blank):
- _someone my age
- _this setting
- _a christian, and on and on
Would this creativity help me (fill in the blank):
- _be approved
- _be accepted
- _be in the “in crowd”
- _seem enough/wise/intelligent/thoughtful
Or the oppossite: would this play or creativity make me appear:
Comparison kills my creativity and ruins my play.
Comparisons create the tension of wanting to be me, but feeling a need to be something beyond me. Comparisons say I am not enough. Comparisons are a lie.
Creativity is “the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.”– William Plomer
Creativity is the expression of our originality. This reminds us that what we bring to the world is completely original. It’s unique. It’s true. It cannot be compared. I believe I am the most true-to-me when I am crafting or creating something new, often with papers and materials and pictures and paste. I am the most true-to-me when I am running around a softball field joking with the teens I coach or sitting around a table playing games with friends. I am the most true-to-me when I have been stuck inside my house all day from the 3rd snow storm in 4 days and I bull charge my roommate and tackle her to the ground playfully. True to me moments. True to who I am.
“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight-and never stop fighting.”-EE Cummings
I feel the most filled when I am taking in ordinary moments. One of the last warm rainy days of summer this year, I asked my roommate to play in the rain with me. She thought I was crazy (who doesn’t think that about me at some point!), but being her thoughtful self, she reluctantly agreed. It was coming down hard. Flood rains. We changed into dark clothing and ran out into the rain. She hardly knew what to do at first. I didn’t either. I just knew that children love to play in rain and somewhere along the way, I lost my playful side. I want to be mindful to play, I wanted to play in the rain. Play is restful.
So there we were: two 27 year old women kicking and splashing rain at each other, running up and down the road hollering and shouting and finding ways to haul water at one another. It was fun. It was playful. It was relaxing emotionally and physically. It was a true-to-me moment.
“The accomplishments and acquisitions track gave way to that stifling combination of fitting in and being better than, also known as comparison. Comparison is all about conformity and competition.” -Brene Brown
When I take comparison out of the picture, concepts- like ahead or behind, best or worst, mature or immature, ministers and the ministered- lose their meaning. “We” becomes “us”, “they” and “them” become “us”. And all of us become connected, finding an equal place to stand and a level ground to build mutual love and care and trust and hope. Who doesn’t need more of that? Making a choice for me to play is countercultural but it’s the only way I know how to let go of productivity and all the pressures of comparison. It’s the best way I know how.
“The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of “fit in” and “stand out”. Comparison is the thief of happiness.” -Brene Brown
I haven’t always understood this. I thought I was “all set”. I knew the christian lingo. I had the prayer chart down. I could tell you what I read for my “devotional time”, who I prayed for, how long I prayed. I could give you my lists of answered and “not yet answered” prayers. I could even tell YOU what you SHOULD be reading or learning or studying or praying for (I was really that person). These are all good things, mind you, but for me, good got in the way of the best.
The best things are spontaneous prayer times with friends and roommates filled with laughter and tears and food, getting together with friends and ending the night around a table of boggle or yatzee or catch phrase or mafia. I love 4 on a couch. I played it a lot in college and I still love it. I love chasing a kid with a nerf gun or a water hose or a dodgeball. These aren’t always “spiritual” times. I’ve learned that not everything had to be “spiritual”. Something fun can have the only purpose of just being “fun”. I’ve learned to take myself less seriously. Learning to laugh at yourself and with yourself and others is a sign of spiritual maturity, not a lack. Being true-to-me involves being creative and playing. I am the most “together” and “mature” and “best” me when I let go of the comparisons of who I think or feel I should act and just be. Being a part of a community that is like-minded about creativity encourages me to just be me-creative, goofy, silly, passionate, and fierce me.
A friend once told me, “watching a movie with an explicit scene in it with you, Syndal, is as awkward as watching it with my mom.” I used to take that as a compliment, that I am not associated with explicit images or thoughts. Now I realize this friend meant that I wasn’t down to earth, I didn’t have a whole lot of fun in me, and I was far too serious. I was a moral compass, seeking and evaluating and never just being. I actually lacked the maturity I thought I had. I never knew I needed creativity or playfulness, but God cultivated it in me anyways. And I am much more whole because of it.
“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born out of our creativity. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.” -Brene Brown