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Creativity: Exaggeration and a few closing thoughts

Lynne Baab • Thursday August 27 2020

Creativity: Exaggeration and a few closing thoughts

My family has accused me many times of exaggerating things when I tell stories. My perspective is that I might exaggerate emotions but seldom the actual facts, and that I stand in a firm tradition. Jesus used hyberbole constantly in his stories in order to intensify the impact. Looking only at the Sermon on the Mount, here are three examples: If someone hits you, give them the other cheek? (Matthew 5:39) Never pray in public? (Matthew 6:6) Never plan or make provision for the future? (Matthew 6:25, 26) Jesus uses hyperbole to make point.

I was delighted when I found a few sentences affirming the power of exaggeration in Cheryl Forbes’s book, Imagination: Embracing a Theology of Wonder:

“Sometimes, too, a little exaggeration helps to show imagination at work. Exaggeration, like satire (which is the formal use of exaggeration and nonsense), grabs the listener’s attention. Jesus’ story of the laborers hired at different times but who receive the same wage [Matthew 20:1-16] is surely exaggeration. No employer would make such an agreement, though it shows what kind of an employer God is. Here if anywhere we see the irrational bounty and grace of God.” [1]

The watercolor sketch I’ve used for this post is a form of visual exaggeration. I hope it makes you smile. Smiling is always one of my goals when I do the verbal thing that my family calls exaggeration, which I call effective story telling. My husband Dave did this painting with our granddaughter a couple of months ago, both of them painting in their own homes, connected by zoom. The pandemic has brought unexpected blessings in the area of shared creativity.

I’ve come to the end of this series on creativity. The series was born from my desire to encourage creativity in the pandemic as a way to cope with shifting schedules and uncertain plans, more time at home and pain that needs soothing. A few closing observations:

1. No series on creativity can be complete without mentioning The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Fifteen years ago I took it with me on a two-week vacation in Hawaii. While Dave and our son were learning to surf and engaging in other adventures, I journaled using the reflection questions, exploring  creativity in my family of origin. I found it extremely helpful.

A  group of women from my church have been working through The Artist’s Way together. One of them wrote to me:

“I think the things I’m learning from The Artist’s Way include the idea that I can just try different things and I don’t have to pick one thing I’m good at. I’m realizing that being creative is crucial to my mental health (still trying to actually apply this . . .) and that it IS God’s desire for me, as well as becoming more empowered and sticking up for myself.”

I love the juxtaposition of ideas in her words: we can experiment with different forms of creativity, we can affirm the way creativity is connected to mental health, and engaging in creative actions helps us get in touch with God’s purposes for us, which include assertiveness and confidence. What great connections. Creativity helps us access inner strengths and convictions in wonderful ways.

2. So many people have sent me resources on creativity and imagination, and I’ve come across so many articles and interesting ideas. If you feel God calling you to grow in this area, look around online to search out the abundance of resources. Or talk to your friends about their creative expressions.

3. Our call to creativity is rooted in God’s creation – the beauty of the world around us and the image of God in each of us. Our model for creativity is Jesus, who in his teaching helps us engage our imaginations in so many ways. I’ll let Cheryl Forbes have the last word in this series, since I am indebted to her for so many of the ideas I’ve written about, and I so appreciate her perspective on Jesus’ creativity:  

“John calls Jesus the Word, logos incarnate. When we think about what that means, we probably have an image of Reason, Logic, Grammar, Syllogism – something as Greek as the word Logos itself. This is the standard interpretation. However, in comparing the Word with his words – and how can you separate them? – we find something different. Jesus wasn’t the master of syllogism, but of imagination, story, character, plot, simile, image, symbol. As he talked, he created worlds within this one.” [2]

Thank you, beautiful God, for the beauty of the world you gave us, the wonder of the creativity we see in others, and the fun of being able to be creative ourselves, at least once in a while. Thank you for Jesus’ model of imagination. Help us learn from him. Help us grow in reflecting your image in the world, and help us enjoy the small and big creative endeavors you call us into. Amen.

(Next week: some reflections after six months of the pandemic. Sign up below if you’d like to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

[1] Cheryl Forbes, Imagination: Embracing a Theology of Wonder (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1986), 57-58.
[2] Ibid., 59.

Earlier this year, I published my book on midlife for kindle. The six spiritual paths I suggest for midlife have lots of creative elements in them, so one option if you want to explore creativity further is to check out my book, A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths for Midlife. It is also available in used paperback copies. If you want to read through the 12 posts in this series in order, the first post is here.

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