I almost burned down the house where I lived in college. This isn’t a figure of speech. Nor is it a clever expression of angst. This is a literal firemen-on-the-lawn fact.
Throughout college I had an ongoing love affair with candles — specifically those that smelled like baked goods. One day I decided to light a candle while I worked. I couldn’t find a suitable spot in my cramped space, so I decided to set it on top of my computer. On nothing more than a flimsy rubber base.
Then I went on a date. It was not until Mark brought me home late-late that I even had the slightest flicker of remembrance. Not until we pulled up to the house and heard smoke alarms going off, saw girls in pajamas scattered across the lawn, and firemen organizing a find-the-flame effort. Then in a stunning flash, I knew.
I quickly confessed, the firefighters acted, and, thankfully, nothing was harmed except my computer. I do recall a safety lecture and the subsequent banning of all candles from the house forever and ever, amen.
Mark seemed suitably startled by this event. We’d already been talking about marriage, and it was likely he was having second thoughts about bringing a woman into his house who might, quite literally, burn it to the ground. I told my parents, and having raised me, they were less surprised. To this day at family gatherings someone will wink at me and say, “Tell them about the candle.” It’s a legend now.
You’d think this would be the one and only occurrence of this kind in my existence. But I am still sometimes the girl who forgets and walks away from the flame. James Prescott said, “There is a spark of creativity in all of us.” I define creativity as whatever is life-giving. So whether you are an accountant or a tight rope walker or a writer, I believe there is a fire burning within you.
The Creator is an advocate of this flame within us, but the world around us is not. It will do its best to distract or discourage us. Then one day we’ll come home to our ordinary, nice lives and find smoke escaping out the windows. Because creativity that is neglected inevitably and eventually expresses itself in ways that are unhelpful. (And remember we’re not defining creativity in the typical or traditional ways.)
In my life, this means if I don’t ever write or connect with folks on a heart level, then I’m inviting anxiety and depression to turn the curtains to ashes. Creativity is a wild thing, and it needs tending.
So let’s pause for a moment and ask God: “What’s one of the sparks You have placed within me?” If the response seems to be far too ordinary, like loving the people right in front of you or cooking dinner or making lovely, orderly spreadsheets, do not dismiss it. That counts. It totally counts.
Then let’s ask, “What do You want me to do about it?” I have found for most folks the answer is, “What you already are.” You might also sense something more specific, something hard and scary. If so, you’ll probably think, “I don’t have time” or “I can’t do it” or “That’s not responsible.” This is normal. And it will make you want to get very busy with doing other things and walk away from the flame.
Instead, just think of the next step — the smallest way you might let that flame burn well. Remember we’re not trying to set the alarms off. We’re talking instead about just giving the spark a little place to be, somewhere it can do its work. It needs boundaries. It needs a bit of room to breathe. It needs watchful eyes on it.
Here’s the thing: You will not regret the decision to nurture creativity in your life. But the universe at large will never urge you to do so. Even the people who love you most may not ever really get it. You will never stop being afraid or thinking you’re a little crazy. Do it anyway, without apology. This world needs all the brave, intentional light we can muster.
This is what I am telling myself these days: “‘Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you,’ and try not to burn down the house.”
For more confessions, crazy stories, and encouragement, listen to Holley’s new podcast, More than Small Talk.
You will not regret the decision to nurture creativity in your life. -@HolleyGerth: Click To Tweet