When COVID-19 first hit, and it start­ed to dawn on us that life-as-usu­al might be can­celled for a while, I noticed some­thing weird.

Peo­ple were crafting.

Seri­ous­ly. A scroll through social media in the ear­ly days of the pan­dem­ic revealed all man­ner of projects. Knit­ting. Paint­ing. Bead­ing. Land­scap­ing. Sourdough-ing.

Faced with some­thing that felt a bit like the end of the world, many folks expe­ri­enced an urge to create.

Per­son­al­ly, I was immune to the craft­ing wave. I lack the craft­ing gene. Even my stick fig­ures are sub­par. I remem­ber strug­gling in my kinder­garten class to make the kid-friend­ly scis­sors work. More than once I raised my hand to ask my teacher if per­haps I’d been erro­neous­ly giv­en the left-hand­ed scis­sors, only to be told: No, sweet­ie, you just find Art Time a bit hard.” It was true then, and it’s true now. I can’t craft.

Still, if I was free of the instinct to knit or paint dur­ing quar­an­tine, I was not immune to the impulse to make stuff. I’m bet­ter with a gui­tar than scis­sors, so I start­ed writ­ing new songs, halt­ing­ly at first, and then almost uncon­trol­lably. My fam­i­ly prob­a­bly would have been hap­pi­er if I’d been seized by the need to make sour­dough, but we work with what we’ve got.

In Walk­ing on Water (Pen­guin Ran­don House, 1980), Madeleine L’Engle’s won­der­ful book on faith and art, L’Engle bor­rows from Leonard Bern­stein to define cre­ativ­i­ty as mak­ing cos­mos in chaos.” A poem or a paint­ing — or a loaf of bread for that mat­ter — comes into being and intrin­si­cal­ly pos­sess­es an order and mean­ing that defy the appar­ent ran­dom­ness of life. So maybe it makes sense that, faced with the chaos of the coro­n­avirus and its glob­al effects, many of us dis­cov­ered a near-pri­mal instinct to cre­ate our own lit­tle patch­es of cosmos.

Of course, even when we’re not in the mid­dle of a pan­dem­ic, notic­ing and nur­tur­ing the cre­ative impulse is impor­tant. It mat­ters for our men­tal health. It makes us resource­ful and inno­v­a­tive as a species. And it tells us some­thing of immea­sur­able impor­tance about who we are.

The first five words of the Bible are: In the begin­ning, God cre­at­ed.” Even before the bib­li­cal writ­ers tell us that God is infi­nite or omnipresent, they tell us He is cre­ative. So it only makes sense that we, His lit­tle image bear­ers, are designed to flour­ish when we exer­cise our own creativity.

And this applies whether we are crafty or not. The author Gary Molan­der says that just as God hov­ered over the form­less deep and began to fill it with expres­sions of Him­self, you and I are cre­ative when­ev­er we notice a void and fill it with some­thing of our­selves. The artists among us fill the void with art, but that’s just one of a mil­lion ways to do it.

God tells them to resist the urge to hun­ker down and aban­don their cre­ativ­i­ty, but instead keep mak­ing cos­mos in chaos.

It could be the way you turn a busi­ness pro­pos­al into a thing of beau­ty, or last night’s left­overs into some­thing tasty, or a sib­ling war into a fam­i­ly game night. There’s no such thing as an uncre­ative per­son, because there is no one who does not bear the image of the Creator.

I don’t hear quite as much crafttalk now as I did ear­ly in the pan­dem­ic. No doubt we’ve all grown more than a lit­tle weary. Maybe I’m being dra­mat­ic, but I keep think­ing that the mea­sures nec­es­sary to con­tain the coro­n­avirus have put us into a kind of exile.

So I’ve been read­ing and re-read­ing the let­ter God wrote through Jere­mi­ah to the exiles in Baby­lon who were begin­ning to lose heart. The one where God tells them to resist the urge to hun­ker down and aban­don their cre­ativ­i­ty, but instead keep mak­ing cos­mos in chaos — to build hous­es, plant gar­dens, and seek the wel­fare of the city (Jere­mi­ah 29:4 – 7).

While much is uncer­tain about 2021, we can know with­out a doubt there will still be chaos to wran­gle and voids to fill. So, let there be build­ing and gar­den­ing and prob­lem-solv­ing and les­son-plan­ning and col­umn-writ­ing and song­writ­ing and bak­ing and yes, even craft­ing. Our urge to make stuff comes from our Mak­er — and it’s a sign that, even now, He is mak­ing all things new (Rev­e­la­tion 21:5).

Orig­i­nal­ly fea­tured in the Jan/​Feb 2021 issue of Faith Today.

Pho­to by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Originally published January 2021

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