One of my first experiences interacting with others living in community was a “lack of talent” show.  I did not experience this event until having lived in community for over 2.5 years.  The title was misleading, because people had many talents, but perhaps the title was meant to encourage a certain humility and recklessness of expression.  People shared passages they had memorized, artwork, songs, music, poems, poetry, and jokes (one, in my recklessness, I was the victim of).  One of the joys of being in community and interacting with other communities, such as through our recent retreat, is in seeing these gifts of expression.

These gifts of expression do not come easy.  We are consumers of entertainment for which our culture has developed a systematic way of delivering into our brains.  It is not that we should avoid consuming the entertainment that our culture provides, but we have become so adapted to the polished, perfect entertainment, that we have often lost touch with our own gifts of expression.  As a community builds trust, more of our true self emerges, and we can more fully live into the expression of who we are.

Scripture opens with a beautiful work of art.  God’s first actions are the work of an artist, of expressing his love by forming and molding something that was void, and turning it into something of beauty.  The whole fabric of existence begins with the work of creation.  I believe that one of the primary concepts of the Imago Dei is that we were created to create, to breathe life and beauty into the world around us.  This is part of the redemption and witness of the Kingdom that we are involved in: of restoring beauty into a world plagued by suffering and brokenness, of providing a witness to God’s faithfulness in the world.  Because of our fallen state and our slavery to sin, all of creation is groaning for liberation.  When we create and express, we are reflecting the beauty of truth, and making small efforts in liberating creation to its original beauty.

Entertainment and creation have largely become a commercial enterprise, which is why we are often suspect of our own ability to create and breathe life into the void.  Yet, as we build trust with one another, we gain the confidence to explore our own solitudes and find ways in which truth and beauty emerge.    The solitudes are the inner well from which we draw our creating power, and as Ranier Marie Rilke said about relationships, we must be the “guardians of solitude,” ensuring that we protect the creative power of one another.  Some of our expressions create beauty through art, music, food, and writing; through reconnecting with the soil from which we came; through skills for listening and comforting, speaking peace into conflict, or reconciling the injustices of the fractured, broken, and power-abused world which we live among. These are among countless other gifts.  As communities, we must encourage one another in these gifts, because they are life-giving powers to create and breathe liberation into a suffering world.