The cleaning and cooking and tax-filing and mowing all have temporary ends. The humans we’re raising, the ministry we’re living, the wrangling of our Selves and the struggle to walk worthy – those are circles we run without end.
But all creating, all painting, singing, baking, building, lesson-preparing, teaching, giving – maybe all those things have the potential to loom large, to call you to an End that is scary and unpredictable. If you’re not careful, your outcomes end up being in the hands and opinions of others.
I am forever learning and looping and losing good lessons, but this is the current education I’m getting: doing what I love requires discipline.
I’m not just talking about the need to ignore distractions or make the time. Those are necessary disciplines, of course. But the discipline I’m needing currently (always) in the things that I love is a discipline that disregards the end, which is counter-productive to my accomplishment-loving-self.
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:13
I love the heavy privilege of raising kids. I’m learning a disinterest for having children that are End Products of years of training, and choosing instead to be brave in the moment and surrender to the long process. Yes, we are responsible for equipping them. Yes, we need to have goals and a plan. But no, we don’t produce trophies for the admiration of passersby. We’re not training monkeys for parlor tricks.
This really hit home when my 15 year old asked for a mohawk and my husband said yes. The quietly funny mild-child. With a mohawk. That I cut.
In the process of raising kids, there are are issues of principle and issues of opinion. Too often, opinions matter to me. So every time I trim up that mohawk I mow down my need for approval. And I may even secretly like it.
When we think about how many terrifying things people are called on to do every day as they fight fires, defend their rights, perform brain surgery, give birth, drive on the freeway, and wash skyscraper windows, it seems frivolous, self-indulgent, and self-important to talk about writing as an act that requires courage. What could be safer than sitting at your desk, lightly tapping a few keys, pushing your chair back, and pausing to see what marvelous tidbit of art your brain has brought forth to amuse you?
And yet most people who have tried to write have experienced not only the need for bravery but a failure of nerve as the real or imagined consequences, faults and humiliations, exposures and inadequacies dance before their eyes and across the empty screen or page. The fear of writing badly, of revealing something you would rather keep hidden, of losing the good opinion of the world, of violating your own high standards, or of discovering something about yourself that you would just as soon not know – those are just a few of the phantoms scary enough to make the writer wonder if there might be a job available washing skyscraper windows.” – Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer
Similarly: as parenting is hard, cleaning my house is easy. As dealing with the day-in-and-out character issues and abrasions of personality clashes and constant questions I don’t want to answer is hard, escaping to busywork is easy. Forcing outward appearances is easy.
Trading the things that are subject to heartache and scrutiny for the things that have a completion, a pleasing outcome, is way too easy.
There aren’t always tidy bows to tie on our creative work – and being human is creative work. Parenting, being a spouse, a boss or an employee, a patient, a passenger, a recipient or a benefactor, all require creativity and we are imaged after a great, creative God. So yes, I really do mean that being human requires creativity.
But you can get away with a gray and creative-less substitute for living. You can find a way out.
Washing skyscraper windows may not be safe, but most people are going to overlook any lapse in your performance and simply commend your obvious bravery, not knowing all the things you’re running from.
You have something to do creatively today. Can you put aside the need for end results and just dive in wholeheartedly? This might look like saying yes to that craft project the kids are asking for, or writing that note, cooking that meal, making that call, giving that gift the Lord has prompted you about.
Maybe you’ll cut a mohawk or write a poem.
Do it, and share your brave work with us.