Friendship, listening, and empathy: A Prayer GuideTwo Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Creativity: One key prayer

Lynne Baab • Friday June 19 2020

Creativity: One key prayer

I became a committed Christian when I was nineteen and a half. Right before my twenty-second birthday, I attended the “Mark 2 Bible study dig-in,” offered at Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship summer camps. “Mark 1” allowed students to focus for five full days on the first half of the Gospel of Mark, and I had participated in that seminar the summer before. “Mark 2” enabled students to look at the second half of Mark for five days. That summer camp, held in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains of California, forever merged in my mind the Gospel of Mark with stately live oak and fragrant eucalyptus trees, gorgeous hills stacked up into the distance, and clear blue skies.

From study of the second half of Mark a few weeks before my 22nd birthday, one verse jumped out: “I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus and his three closest disciples are on their way down the mountain where Jesus was transfigured. They come to the other disciples and a big crowd. A man approaches Jesus in desperation about his son who has powerful seizures. The disciples have not been able to heal him, and the man uses the phrase “if you are able” when he asks Jesus to perform the healing. Jesus tells the man, “All things can be done for the one who believes” (Mark 9:23). The man responds, “I believe, help my unbelief” (verse 24).  

At almost twenty-two, having been a Christian for only two and a half years, I indentified strongly with the man. I knew I believed in God and in Jesus’ power to heal, guide, empower, and care for me. But my belief felt so small at times. “I believe, help my unbelief” became a key prayer for me, and I looked forward to the day – maybe in a few years or a decade or two – when I would no longer need to pray that prayer.

Well, here I am, right before a birthday forty-some years later, still praying “I believe, help my unbelief.”I never outgrew that prayer as I had expected to. Accepting that I live with both belief and unbelief – and acknowledging it openly to God, asking for God’s help to grow in faith – unleashes creativity in me because I embrace my unfinished, imperfect, still growing self. In order to create anything, we have to be willing to be imperfect, even to fail.

I mentioned last week the strong atmosphere of perfectionism I grew up in. I know I brought that perfectionism into my faith. A boy had seizures, his father brought him to Jesus’ disciples then to Jesus, and the father breathed a prayer that lifted my need to be perfect. The Creator of those gorgeous live oaks and eucalyptus trees, greenish gray against the blue California sky, used the Gospel of Mark to empower me to step aside for a moment from the perfectionism I had grown up with and embraced too enthusiastically.

Our wonderful Creator God, who calls us to creativity, has given me periods of freedom from perfectionism throughout my life. That freedom have fueled the lightness and joy of the creative process. Obviously, for me writing is a major creative outlet, but I also feel moments of creativity in so many other settings, such as planning the outline for a class, figuring out what to cook for dinner, and choosing a pot for a houseplant so the shape and color of the pot will complement the plant.

The prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief,” takes away the need to do everything right the first time. It helps us rely on God for our most basic need – faith – so we can learn to relax and bring creativity into so many components of daily life.

Loving God, we believe you when you tell us you love us and have called us according to your purpose. Lord Jesus Christ, send your Holy Spirit into our hearts to help us in our moments of unbelief. Amen.

(Next week: Hidden art. Illustration by Dave Baab: eucalyptus trees. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog.)

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