So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
While it’s only relatively recently that ‘footprint’ has emerged as a popular definitive term, particularly for corporate identity and engagement, footprints have always contained the sense of having left a mark. Aside from the practical considerations – like tracking or following spoor – there are expressions, like ‘following in another’s footsteps,’ which dig a little deeper into the ‘psyche’ of humanity and, in particular, an innate need to leave a mark, to leave something behind that reminds others that we were there.
This ‘looking to leave a legacy’ is often deeply rooted in our creativity – a characteristic of man that is so often overlooked. Creativity seems to have been elevated to only apply to the exceptional, whereas it is, in fact, fundamental to every human being. We hear people say ‘I’m not creative at all’ or ‘my siblings got the creative gene,’ and simply accept this. Some people are creative and others are not. That is the accepted assumption but, using today’s verse as our starting point, we can see that this is actually very far from the truth.
Mankind was, according to the Bible, created in the image of God. This means that He created us using Himself as the blueprint. It means that, just as an image is faithfully reproduced in a mirror, so His image is faithfully reproduced in us. Of course, the ‘real thing’ rather than the reflection has the most substance. The reflection is dependent on the original for its existence. This raises a significant truth – mankind, who is the reflection, can only be complete if God is present. Quite a thought, isn’t it?
So what does ‘in His image’ really involve? Simply put, this means that all the characteristics that define Him are reproduced in us. To avoid unnecessary confusion we must remember that this does not ‘make us like God.’ That was the root of Satan’s error and led to his downfall. It means that we are created to reflect Him. We are the mirror of God on earth. The reflection may be clean and pure. It may be chipped and a little bent our of shape. It may be disturbed by ripples and marks on the surface. While we are created to reflect God, our humanity affects how much of Him we are able to reflect, and how accurately. A new mirror reflects much more clearly than an old one.
We are, as it were, God’s footprint in the world. Using our modern-day analogy, His ‘footprint’ – the extent of His activity and participation in the world – is reflected in His people. For whatever reason, God has decided to link His work in the world to those who choose to follow Him and serve Him – to yield themselves to their proper purpose, which is to reflect Him to the world, to be His footprint. The concept is simple, really. People look at us and can see that God has been here.
This is the point where creativity becomes such an interesting and fundamental concept. It’s easy to ‘see’ the characteristics that help to define God as being those that are traditionally accepted – love, mercy, grace, compassion, etc. This are, without doubt, part of the ‘whole of God,’ some of the many definitive things that reveal His nature to us. Creativity is often left out of this list, and yet, if we look at the Bible, it is the very first thing we see Him doing.
Genesis 1:1 tells us that ‘in the beginning God created.’ Creativity is the first manifestation of the nature of God ever revealed in the Bible. This, in itself, is sufficient to give us pause. Add to this the sheer magnitude, detail and diversity that ‘creation’ encompasses and we begin to see creativity is a vital and dynamic part of who God is. Wherever we look, we see His creativity at work in the world around us. Creativity is the first characteristic of God that He reveals to us. That is so significant.
Now, if we accept that we are made in His image, it challenges the accepted notion that some people are creative and others are not. I we believe the Bible, and if we believe that we are created in His image, then we have to accept that creativity must be a vital and dynamic part of who we are. If God has it, we have it too. Every single human being is, by default, creative. Every single one of us has the ‘creative gene.’ It is a basic, fundamental drive within every individual. It’s the innate need to replicate a part of ourselves in something else.
Where the confusion comes in is that we’ve taken ‘creative’ outside of context. We use it to define works of art or music or literary ‘masterpieces.’ While these are all creative, they do not define creative. Writing computer code, for example – which most of us will agree follows rigorous and almost mathematical standards of logic – is an enormously creative activity. Gardening is creative – placement and arrangement of plants – as is cooking or baking, the ‘creating’ of meals or cakes. Structuring sound investment portfolios, though this manifests in accounting and business acumen, is fundamentally a creation of a package of investments working together to achieve a desired result. Big business pushes for ‘solutions,’ and solutions based management – a popular concept today – is, quite simply, being able to be creative in finding answers, or thinking out the box.
Whatever we do, creativity is involved. A mother gets creative in juggling schedules and meeting the needs of her family. Both mathematical theories and scientific principles were first initiated through creative thought – the ‘what if’ question is as creative as it gets. Every single human activity, process and discovery contains and is governed by our innate creativity – the reflection of the characteristic of God that set this universe in motion.
It’s important to understand that God’s creativity didn’t cease after the first few chapters of Genesis. His creativity remains a vital and integral part of His interaction with His people. Consider the Red Sea for a moment. Separating a mass of water to create a path for a few million people to cross – imagine walls of water on either side – is a seriously creative solution to a major obstacle. Then He uses those same ‘walls’ to create the massive wave of water that got rid of the Egyptions. Creativity at it’s finest. Jericho is another example – if marching around the walls and singing praise isn’t a creative way to bring down the walls, we’re not thinking straight.
Think of the cross. Sending His own Son as a perfect man to assume our sins and punshment, so that He can meet the requirements of His righteousness and holiness and restore us to releationship with Him… As far as ‘creative solutions’ go, this has to be the ultimate, perfect, complete example. Creativity is an essential, vital, fundamental, dynamic and extraordinary characteristic of God. His resurrection power, for example, is creative power, creating life out of death. Everything He does is infused with creativity, and everything we do is also, whether we see and accept it or not. It is as much a part of our nature as breathing.
Creativity may, of course, manifest as ‘exceptional talent’ in some people for a particular thing, such as painting, writing, etc. This is talent or gift, and is not the same thing as creativity, which is fundamental to who we are and how we operate. The creative ‘instinct’ is the reasoning behind, for example, therapists who encourage some kind of creative activity or outlet. In being creative, however this may happen, we are manifesting the creator. If we are manifesting God, His presence has to be there. The mirror can only reflect what is in front of it, i.e. what is present.
Which brings us back to our ‘footprint.’ Every human being is created in the image of God, whether we accept Him or not. We are created to reflect Him or be His footprint in this world. Simply by breathing and existing and functioning in everyday things, even an atheist therefore manifests the creator. Our innate creativity is one of the ways in which this takes place. But for believers, those of us who willingly surrender to being only the mirror of God in the world, we are gradually transformed into the likeness of Christ – who came specifically to manifest the Father to humanity. The more there is of Christ in us, the more our image conforms to the accurate reflection of God.
The beauty inherent in the truth of our creativity lies in the fact that it the manifestation of God in us. It is the work of God in us. Whatever we do, however or wherever or whenever we do it, God is present. If that activity is surrendered to His glory, He will be in it. If He is in it, His creative power will drive it. If He is the power in it, we are intimately connected to the one who alone can give life. Denying creativity is essentially denying a part of God. We should embrace it and allow it to work within us for His glory. When we reflect all of who He is, we reflect is full glory to the world.
Thank You, Lord, for Your Word which teaches us about You. We’re awed by the vastness of Your creation, by the works of Your hand and the ways in which You move in this world. Help us to see that ‘being creative’ is reflecting a vital part of who You are so that we can bring You glory in all we do.