Leafing through past journals, I see that, six years ago, I was stuck. I had spent four years establishing a business, probably the one thing in my life which worked better “than I had asked or dreamed of asking” (something I now pray for my writing!!)
But creatively and spiritually, I was stuck. I missed my native atmosphere of books, words, ideas and poetry. My writing was slow, haphazard, without direction. Uninspired words trickled, slow drop by drop. I was reading my Bible most days, and trying to pray, dully, dutifully, but not really experiencing the electric energy of being possessed by God.
I had had a painful experience at a then-toxic church I then attended, which felt traumatic because it happened at a vulnerable period when I was overworking at our business, which wasn’t really my calling or passion, and was still adjusting to our move to Oxford, and to our new home.
A young woman who had been in a Bible study I had led in that church said she’d seen a vision of my heart—gold with pockets of ashes. Ashes! Exactly!
* * *
So my creativity was blocked and I kept playing this Vineyard awakening creativity song,
Flood over me like a river, my God,
Immerse me in your living streams.
Awaken the song that you placed in my heart.
Spirit, breathe on me.
But I also kept brooding over the incident, and was consumed with a desire for justice, for God to take my side, and deal with all who had injured me, and for me to be able to see that he had done so. Exhausted and overwhelmed at work, I repeated the words of the Old Testament prophets: “With your own eyes, you will see the punishment of the wicked.” (Psalm 91:8). “Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who attack you will come to nothing.” (Isaiah 41:12)
Like the widow who harassed the unjust judge, I wanted God to “vindicate me against my adversary,” wanted God to judge those who had told untruths about me, and had been unjust and uncaring towards me. Yes, pretty bossy and demanding of me. Oh, my heart had strayed far from the gentleness of Jesus.
And yeah, yeah, not really the best breeding ground for creativity.
* * *
That Christmas we spent a month in New Zealand, and visited Milford Sound, a breathtaking fjord. On the winding mountainous drives to it, we saw a glorious waterfall. Roy, Zoe and Irene clambered like mountain goats up slopes where I could see no foothold. I stood captivated, watching the waterfall in an almost hypnotic state.
A large rock jutted from the crashing waterfall. And behind the rock, debris piled up, sticks, stones, worms, leaves. STUCK, while everything else rushed on to the ocean.
* * *
And I watched, and thought–Oh my goodness, the three people whose untruths, manipulativeness and injustice towards me I still ponder, their lives have rushed on. They have won, I have lost; they are not thinking of me, they have moved on, but whenever I remember those incidents, I fume. And I remain stuck.
And though I had to forgive again and again as the incident returned to mind, I forgave them, there and then the best I could. R. T. Kendall’s convicting Total Forgiveness says you know you have forgiven when you can bless those who have injured you.
Well, I still thought justice would be a rather good idea, but I so wanted to forgive them for my own sake, so I blessed whatever was good in them—the warmth and hospitality of one, the concern for the poor and the environment of another, the kindness of another. I see blessing as a supernatural increase, so I blessed the good and sweetness which had drawn me to these women in the first place, and prayed for it to increase for the sake of Jesus and his Kingdom, both of whom I love more than myself (at least, I think I do). There is a cognitive dissonance between blessing someone, and wishing a Shylock-like vengeance on them. It’s not possible. Blessing them set my heart free from the grumpy pettiness which had possessed it in my season of exhaustion.
* * *
Before that holiday, I had been unable to get back into writing which is my native medium as water is to a kingfisher, as the skies are to an eagle. My sadness was affecting my health, and my kind GP had suggested five free sessions of psychotherapy. The therapist and I had gone through everything…where to write, when to write, routines, sleep.
The missing link was forgiveness.
That done, I felt free and happy. God flooded over me like a river, immersed me in his living streams, awakened the song he placed in my heart. I was writing. I was writing so much. My fingers were still stiff; my confidence had been shaken; what I wrote for the first year or so had little literary value, but still I was writing. I was flying.
I cancelled my last session of therapy.
* * *
You can be a nasty human being and creative, of course you can.
Unfortunately—no, no, fortunately–for me, anger, pettiness, resentments, unforgiveness, chewing the bone of past injuries blocks the creativity which streams down from above, God’s golden stream of thoughts, which, we are told, outnumbers the grains of sand on the seashore.
It’s when I am open to God, when there’s no block between him and me, no sin I am clutching, no bone of anger or injury that I have not relinquished, that I feel ideas and words flood over me like a river, that I feel immersed in those living streams
* * *
Evan Roberts, the catalyst for the stories Welsh Revival had four principles for those who want to experience the fullness of the Spirit. He repeated them at every meeting, leading to more than 100,000 conversions to Christ.
1 Confess every known sin to God, and seek his cleansing and forgiveness. Forgive everybody – everybody- so your sins may be forgiven.
2 Remove everything doubtful from your life. If you cannot decide whether it is good or evil, remove it. There must not be a trace of a cloud between you and God.
3 Total surrender. Obedience, prompt, implicit, unquestioning, to the Spirit of God. Do what the Holy Spirit prompts without hesitation or fear.
And guess what? These principles are also the grounds for Spirit-Breathed Creativity.
* * *
I’ve read biographies of Shakespeare and Milton, magical writers, or feminist poets like Sylvia Plath; apparently, none of them were very nice people. The beauty of their words thrills the soul, but their words do not change hearts or lives.
But given the shortness of life, why not aim to write beautiful words which might lodge in people’s hearts and spirits, making people happier and more Godward–words which do a little bit to establish the Kingdom of God on earth?
For that we need to be in direct communion with God, without blocks of anger, hostility, unforgiveness, or sin.
Then we can swim in the river, as its streams rush through us; we can write down the words and visions which stream down towards us from above, so that he may run who reads it.
Flood over me like a river, my God
Immerse me in Your living stream
Awaken the song you placed in my heart,
Spirit, breathe through me.
Forgiveness and surrender: conditions for Revival, & for spirit-breathed creativity. NEW from @anitamathias1