The afternoon is spent with friends, but before I go to bed, I sit down with an old book and skim through pages until a few words jump out at me. I tear the page out, not so carefully because this creation is just for me. My roommate introduced me to blackout poetry, this idea of taking a page covered in words and focusing on just a few of those words, blacking out the rest so that out of something existing, out of some unwanted book, comes something new. And so I outline the words I want to keep in pencil, then get out a paintbrush and some paint and block out the rest of the page until only a few words are left. Out of a page of words comes a poem. Blackout poetry reminds me to look for the beautiful and the profound and the true in even the unexpected places in life, the places that I’ve given up on or dismissed as unimportant.
We humans take what already exists and reshape it, responding to some need or some muse to make something different. God, though—God created, took nothing and made it something. “The earth was without form, and void”, and God created the earth and the stars and life out of that, using only words to create something utterly new. We cannot create something from nothing; we can only take what is here and reshape it, a pale imitation of God’s total creation of what is new and beautiful.
Yet God creates that way too. God shapes what is there. God formed humans from the earth, shaping them with hands into a form that became a body. God shaped the land that was already there, creating dry land and seas. God creates something new out of what is already there, but God also created what is already there.
That—that appreciation of the beautiful intricacy of the act of creation—is why I create now. That is why I drew as a child—trees and animals and landscapes—to appreciate God’s art and perhaps better understand it. I don’t draw much anymore, but my purpose in creating hasn’t really changed. I write to understand, to take time to slow down, and appreciate what’s around me and what God is doing. I take photos to see God’s creation, to see its intricacy and wonder at it. I create blackout poetry as a form of meditation, to allow God to guide me in the creation of something new out of something ordinary.
Creating brings me closer to God, helps me understand one more fraction of who God is.
Creating helps me appreciate God’s own act of creation. I marvel at a butterfly—all of its tiny parts and its life cycle and its role in pollination—every time I take a photo of a butterfly. In writing a poem about a sunset, I am praising the Creator, not just for that act of painting a sunset, but also for the act of putting together entire ecosystems that function on a delicate balance governed by hundreds of factors—so many that scientists are still puzzling them out. I am praising God for how all those factors came together to create that one moment of beauty.
I struggle and sweat and cry over one poem of maybe a page in length, and am astonished at the effort and thought that must have gone into creating the whole universe, which is so large that Earth itself is practically infinitesimally tiny.
I am awed by the billions and billions of years science tells us came between the birth of the universe and the birth of life, at God’s long wait and willingness to wait, slowly shaping stars and rocks and planets until everything was ready for life.
I wonder at how one bacteria has led to a planet teeming with millions of species, living everywhere imaginable and unimaginable, all so different that it is hard to imagine they all came from one tiny bacteria.
I marvel at the patience of a Creator God who shaped life from nothingness, who crafted that process of evolution one minute and one life and one mutation at a time to create new kinds of life that led to new kinds of life. New led to new led to new, but it all came from the old. God took what already existed and created utterly new creatures: plants, birds, mammals, humans—all were utterly new in their time.
Creating gives me hope. It reminds me of God’s own act of creation, and God’s continued crafting in my own life. God hasn’t stopped working in my life, and my own pale imitation of the act of creating helps me to see that and remember that and share that.