Through A Potter's Lens

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” These are the first words one encounters in the Bible, Genesis 1:1. This is the first sentence chosen to open the Book so many of us rely on to get a glimpse of God: of who God is, of how God operates and, in turn, how God wishes us to operate, to live, to be.

That first declaration about God stops me on my tracks! As an artist, as an individual who actively, purposefully and mindfully engages in the creative process, I cannot help asking: Does an artist’s activity in the studio resemble, imitate, echo God’s experience as Creator? I believe it does. Furthermore, I also believe that creativity is part of every human being’s Spiritual DNA, our Divine inheritance, a part of that image of God we were created in.

 
"Familia” (Family). Anagama-fired stoneware vessels. By Rafael J. CaNizares-Yunez. Collection of the artist.

"Familia” (Family). Anagama-fired stoneware vessels. By Rafael J. CaNizares-Yunez. Collection of the artist.

 

John Clesse, actor, writer and member of Monty Python, said in a lecture that, according to research, creativity is not a talent; it is, rather, a way of operating. He stated that, in order to create, we need to be childlike and able to play. Of course, this reminds me of the pronouncement by Jesus in Matthew 18:3,

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Mr. Cleese also listed five conditions which increase the potential for creativity to occur: The ability to create boundaries, a space away from the demands of daily life; a specific period of time, with starting and ending points; the ability to deal with uncertainty; the absence of fear of making mistakes; and humor, the ability to be amused or derive enjoyment in spite of circumstances. I clearly see these elements present in my own practice, in my own creative process. Are they present in God’s creation account?

We are given an image of God’s studio in Genesis 1:2. 

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”

We can also look at Genesis 2:5-6. 

“Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.”

That is the space in which God created. The Bible also offers a timeframe, “In the beginning ... By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing ...” We see God as being comfortable with uncertainty, giving humans free will. We can also see that, perhaps, God was not afraid of making mistakes, even if foreseeing the consequences of free will. Finally, it takes humor to create the world we live in, with so many amusing creatures, and to be able to derive enjoyment from it.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

The Bible also offers us images of God as the potter, molding humanity out of a lump of clay. As a trained potter, I can so relate to that image.

The vision of the artist-creator, the malleability of the clay, its resistance on the wheel, its response to the right amount of pressure, the necessary timing and the different stages of the process, the transforming and transcendental outcomes of fire and heat, the beauty of the final product, regardless of its intended function. We could explore this metaphor in so many ways; however, the current context does not allow for it. So, where is the relevance in all of this?

The conditions necessary for a potter to make objects, for the creation of art, are also the necessary conditions for safe dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality. Although I believe God is already present in the dialogue (God is either omnipresent or God isn’t), we can become more aware of God’s presence by intentionally, consciously and actively utilizing the divine gift of our creative inheritance and by operating, just like God, out of Love. We are, after all, vessels filled with God’s Spirit.

Level Ground has created the space, the studio for us to engage in creative, fruitful dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality. Are we willing to set aside time to engage with the materials at hand, to bring to the space the tools, resources, experience and vision each one of us has to offer? If so, we must be willing to cultivate the ability to deal with uncertainty, for otherwise we might miss the gifts inherent in the process. We must also leave behind the fear of making mistakes and become compassionate in the process. After all, artists turn mistakes into opportunities and assets!

Finally, let us remember to have humor and enjoy the process, let us be amused by the beauty that can be created out of the dialogue that some of us can experience as a messy, smelly, yucky, sticky, uncooperative lump of clay. May we trust that, in God’s presence, we are one big family and all is well!