Esther Emery is a writer and a half, and I love reading her words. She also happens to be living her summer days in a yurt (like a tent), doing a sustainable-living adventure, in the middle of nowhere. With no electricity. She has amazing insights into what it really looks like to live the creative life, and I’m delighted that she’s here:
There is a place, where the spark lives. Someone I know described it this way: where creative meets Creator. It’s a place where the line gets fuzzy, between the work of our own hands, and the work of the divine: the working hands of God.
I am an artist sometimes. But most of the time I’m just trying to make the land bear fruit. I’m banking on this hope that God really meant it, when he made man and woman and charged them to cultivate the earth.
I’ve never really heard it in a sermon. I’ve haven’t had a pastor stand up and exhort the congregation to quit our jobs and draw food out of the earth by our own labors. Mostly I’ve been advised to be generous and hardworking and courageous, and bear good fruit, and give my ten percent.
But still, I am convinced of this. I am convinced that to steward the land, and do it well, is a holy cause.
Right or wrong, I’m in it now. My husband and I have quit our jobs to steward a three-acre parcel of near wilderness in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We came here looking for that spark, which I know mostly by feel, from searching for it in the dark.
All this does not translate well to cocktail conversation. (Not that I’m the type to have cocktail party invitations, anyway.) But the spark I’m talking about is hard to explain, harder still to illustrate, nearly impossible to share.
Seeking that spark is pretty much an act of faith.
I’m banking on this hope, that God really meant it, when he made us to be image-bearers. I’m banking on this hope that God made us to be creative.
Most everybody can say what it feels like, when you make something, and it’s good. Lots of people cook, and that can be good. Crochet. Knitting. Woodworking. Gardening. Make a quilt for the grandchild, a paper and crayon drawing for the grandma. Frame a photo. Capture a moment. Fix up a house. Rebuild a chair.
Everybody knows what that feels like. And sometimes we say these kinds of things are our hobbies. But I’m thinking maybe this is supposed to be our life.
So picture this: I have my gloved hands in a pile of horse manure and no job anymore and I’m thinking, is this what God had in mind? Is this what it means to partner with Creation?
Then I sow seeds and they don’t germinate, and I sow new ones and I think, is this what I’m supposed to do? To listen to the land and the plants and the animals and learn to hear better? It could be like this slow, blind dance. I could get better at it.
I recognize it. It’s like any other creative work I’ve ever done. It’s like showing up to write a blog, or direct a play. It’s like laying that first stroke of paint onto the page, striking out into the empty space, hearing the echo of your creative choice come back to you, and then reaching out again into the dark, making your next move.
Honestly, I’m not the best of Christians. I often skip church and am often questioning. Sometimes, to tell the truth, I feel really angry. Sometimes this is the only way I know, to pray.
And creative work is that, to me, whether on the page or stage or in the garden. It is worship.
This is one of the craziest miracles of all: that we could be called to this, to partner with God in creation. It’s absurd, really. We’re such a mess. But we can, and do, and I believe that we are called to it. Especially in the natural landscape, especially in this sense of cultivating the land, we are called to be stewards of this earth.
And sometimes I hit a little bit of that spark. Sometimes I help something beautiful to grow, or I sing, or I help a creature to survive. And then I think, what hands but these does God use, to make the world with? What hands does God use now, but these, to shepherd beauty and compassion across the canvas of His good, green earth?
Esther Emery was once a theatre director and playwright in Southern California. Now she’s pretty much a runaway, currently living off grid in a yurt on three acres of Idaho mountainside. She does ridiculous and courageous things in pursuit of creativity and authenticity, and blogs about it at www.estheremery.com.
Over to you:
- How do you feel about gardening, ‘working the land’? Have we lost sight of what it really means to obey that first command to cultivate the earth?
- Can you relate to Esther’s words that being creative is worshipful?