One of the greatest gifts God has given me is the ability to be a professional “creator”. I’ve known I wanted to create things for people since I was 13 years old, but for the next 17 years of my life, I failed miserably at it. Then God gave me an idea called Finger of God, and the rest is history. Now I make films and write books and speak in churches for a living, and I’m having more fun doing it all than I ever could have imagined.
All that being said, God has brought me into a true friendship with Himself through all this, and as I’ve begun to learn, friendship brings with it certain…expectations. For one thing, I’ve learned that God doesn’t just want to boss us around, but He actually wants to partner with us. Contrary to what I used to believe, it appears that God is actually interested in our thoughts and opinions (who knew!). But at the same time, God has very good, well thought out opinions Himself, and if I’ve learned anything over these last 8 years of creating with Him, it’s that the best career move I can make is asking Him for ideas and advice before I do anything. His thoughts are not my thoughts—they are much better thoughts.
But when God calls you to a live of creativity with Him, He is choosing you not because He wants a puppet through whom He can do His bidding, but He actually sees something in you that He likes and that He thinks can reach some of His other kids. That’s always the end game with God: bringing His children home.
For those who have been following along with me on this crazy journey since the beginning, you’ve seen my own spiritual transformation played out on the screen. From the timid skeptic of Finger of God to the radical concept of Holy Ghost, in 8 short years God has worked me over pretty good. But I’ve learned a few things about partnering with Him along the way, and I’d like to share with you some of what He’s taught me.
1. Get Ready To Embrace Ambiguity
While most creatives won’t struggle too much with this concept (most highly creative people actually thrive with ambiguity), partnering with God is often a lesson in extremes. Since God is the most creative Person in the Universe, He is more than content to live with ambiguity as well as provide it in spades for you! He doesn’t do this because He’s got a bent sense of humor, but rather because faith is the only way you can truly please Him (Hebrews 11:6). If He were to tell you everything up front, it would be like watching a movie you’ve already seen before. The tension is gone, and therefore so is the faith needed to walk through your creative act. While God has always given me just enough of a glimpse of what He wants me to do with my films so I know where to book flights to, most of the journey is a walk of faith and discovery.
2. Whatever is comfortable to you, you won’t do that.
Growing up in church I remember people always talking about how God likes to pull us out of our “comfort zone”. I always hated that. I like my comfort. I like being in control, knowing what’s going on, and dealing with the familiar. But creativity doesn’t thrive under comfortable conditions—it thrives when pressure is applied and through a lot of hard work. My idea of a good time isn’t to travel half-way across the globe to dangerous places and to stick my neck out to show the world what radical faith looks like. I would much prefer to stay at home with my wife and kids and sleep in my comfortable bed. But if you’re going to partner with God creatively, He’s most definitely going to push your comfort buttons. He won’t do this because He’s mean, but rather because He really wants you to succeed.
3. God is limited by your talent.
I’ve been around some Christians who view creativity as a completely spiritual thing. If you can just tap into the Holy Spirit enough, He’s going to give you supernatural ability and insight that you never knew you had, and you’re going to go change the world with this newfound brilliance and wisdom. This is nonsense. The fact is (and as much as we don’t want to admit it) God is limited by our abilities (or lack thereof). I am constantly approached by well-meaning Christians who just heard me speak and they tell me they want to make a movie themselves. When I question them further, they admit they’ve never gone to film school, never studied storytelling or drama, and never really done anything at all overtly creative. Why on earth do they think they’re qualified to make a movie that other people would want to see? Christians who are artists need to focus on their craft as much as they do their spiritual gifts. Otherwise we’re going to have a lot of well-meaning, but ultimately bad art.
4. If you want to hear from the Lord, you’re going to have to ask Him some questions (and then actually listen).
This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised! It’s so easy to get caught up in dreaming and ideation and brainstorming and development that we forget to take the time necessary with the One we’re trying to partner with and actually allow Him to be your partner. If you want to live a life of radical creative obedience, you first need to actually have something to be obedient towards! Creative people often have the healthiest egos around (why else would we think other people actually need what is in our heads?), and it’s often hardest for us to humble ourselves and ask God for ideas, let alone give Him time to respond. It is not unusual for God to give me a kernel of an idea, and then wait YEARS before He gives me the next step, or the other part of the idea. The wait usually isn’t because He’s slow in getting around to it, but more because He’s waiting for my spiritual maturity/psyche/ability/talent to catch up.
5. God is far more interested in the state of your heart than He is what you can do for Him.
In Numbers 20:10-12, Moses makes a massive mistake when God tells him to speak to the rock and He’ll make water come out of it for the Israelites. Instead, Moses exalts himself and strikes the rock twice—a clear violation of what he was asked to do. As a result of this, God takes Moses out to the woodshed and gives him his punishment—you’re not making it into the promised land, mister.
I used to view this as incredibly harsh by God, but the more I understand about friendship with God, the more I realize that this is not God responding to Moses in anger, but rather out of love. He is about to lose His best friend to pride, and God cares much more for Moses’ heart than He does what Moses can do for Him. It’s one of the reasons Jesus tells us that God will leave 99 sheep to fend for themselves to go after the one who’s strayed. He is far more invested in the state of your heart than He is what you can provide for Him. When you start to allow yourself to believe your own press clippings and think you’re the one in the driver’s seat in this creative relationship, that’s when God will likely humble you. Not because He’s angry with you, but because He doesn’t want to lose you.