December 2, 2020

Creativity Overcoming Safety

Editor’s note: I came across this essay by Orlando, Florida pastor Cole NeSmith recently. Cole says what I have been saying for years, only much better than I could say it. Read this and pass it on to others to read as well. This is so important to understand: Not just for artists, but for all who want to reflect the creative heart of God.

By Cole NeSmith

We live in a culture consumed by safety. There are organizations completely dedicated to making sure we’re safe while working and traveling and eating and doing just about any other common practice.

And, being good westerners, we’ve allowed our cultural obsession for safety to define our lives as Christians. We’ve spent the last several hundred years sterilizing our relationship with Christ into a religion that is neat, defined, predictable… might I say, systematic?  We’ve worked hard to eliminate as much of the unknown as possible, and we wonder why we feel distant from a God who exists in the mysterious.  Today, we try to compensate with our heads by creating large educational institutions where we can further define and attempt to know God intellectually.

Hence recently my friend Dustin called me and asked :

What happened historically that caused Christians to stop being influencers and creators of culture?  Where did our creativity go?

The answer : It was driven out by our fear of the unknown and our lust for answers.

Creativity and safety are incompatible.

Creativity is willing to step into the unknown and bring something new into existence.
Creativity is about an unbridled heart that is so free in who it was created to be that it is unstoppable.
Creativity is central to EVERYTHING God does.  And I’m not just talking about the creative work of the land and seas and animals and you and me.  I’m talking about things like redemption, peace, beauty and hope.  These things can only exist when we tap into the creative heart of God.

When I pass a homeless drug addict on the street, I can respond with my earthly, uncreative heart that sees what is before me.  Or, I can choose to look on with the creative heart of God that sees something that is yet to exist.  God looks onto what seems like a dark canvas of nothingness and imagines a beautiful life – a tree bearing all kinds of good fruit that nourishes those who come to eat of it.

Recently, I was talking with a guy  who has lived and worked in Haiti for the last 27 years.  He said,

“the most difficult thing to overcome in Haitian culture is the pervasive mindset of “present hedonism.”

And it seems that statement is true for lots of Americans (especially American Christians) as well.  We’re only concerned with the present, the now, today.  We’ve lost the ability to dream.  In short, his assessment is that one of the largest hurdles in Haiti is a lack of creativity.

That night, I posted this online :

Thinking about two future Haitis : One rebuilt on the foundation of creativity and the other built on the foundation of utility.

And the sole response :

I like the one where their foundation is Jesus

And that’s where we stand today – in a world where Christians have erected a wall of fear, prejudice and sterility between creativity and Jesus.

But when we truly look at the heart of Jesus and the river of the Holy Spirit, all we see is the unexpected.

I remember going to the Grand Canyon several years ago.  I was on the road with some friends, and we drove all through the night.  The next morning, when I woke up, we were parked in a campsite several hundred yards from the hole.  I was so excited to start exploring that I skipped breakfast and jogged up the path to the canyon.  It was beautiful.  We hiked all day along the ridge occasionally walking out on the narrow pieces of rock that jutted from the main path – only 3 feet wide with hundreds of feet of cliff on each side.  And no rails!

God wants to take humanity deep in the mystery of Himself, but for generations, Christians have stood on the bank of the river of His Spirit.  And over time, the river has carved out a canyon before us.  That canyon gets deeper and deeper.  The rushing waters that we’re meant to swim in get farther and farther away.  Some thought about diving in for a while, but eventually the river just looked like it was too far down to jump in.  So we started building a fence.  And today, that fence keeps us safely perched on top of the canyon.  We have taken to study the rocks and the sand and the bushes.  We become intimately acquainted with the signs of what once was.  And as we turn our backs to the river, we settle into the comforts of the land.

But I’m so thirsty.  And I know that there are people in the world that are too – people that are ready to swim in the river of God, not exactly sure what will happen, but ready nonetheless.

So, what do you say we tear down the fence, stand on the edge of the cliff and jump into the unknown, beautiful, creative heart of God?

Cole writes on his blog and is the creator of the online art resource, Uncover The Color.


  1. YEAH!!!!!

  2. Prodigal Daughter says


  3. Reading this makes me feel like a young eagle who has first noticed a wind current. There is something clicking inside that says it’s time to get out of the nest.

  4. Wow….there’s a take on Jesus and the gopel that you don’t hear every day. This essay is a rich find. Shout out to JeffD for sharing the goodies. I’ll be sharing this with some of my arts friends here at the KC Vineyard. Thanks again.


  5. So …. what do we do?

    I am a would-be writer who is in a corporate 55-hour-a-week job because of debt we amassed years back, when we were young and stupid. I’d love to jump into that river, but I fear the debt will jump in after me and cripple if not kill me.

  6. Jeff, both you and chaplain Mike just amaze me at the spiritual depth and richness you continue to poor out to the imonk community. May Jesus so overwhelmingly bless you both for your selflessness and love!

    This statement of yours so hit home in my heart and brought back memories of my missionary years and tugged at my still missionary heart.

    “When I pass a homeless drug addict on the street, I can respond with my earthly, uncreative heart that sees what is before me. Or, I can choose to look on with the creative heart of God that sees something that is yet to exist. God looks onto what seems like a dark canvas of nothingness and imagines a beautiful life – a tree bearing all kinds of good fruit that nourishes those who come to eat of it.”

    If we choose to see the Creative Presence of God in every person we encounter, from the greatest sinner to the holiest saint, we can be a vehicle for God’s creative work.

    If we choose to see Jesus in the face of every person we encounter, from the greatest sinner to the holiest saint, we express our love for Jesus, to Jesus. “Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me…”

  7. David Cornwell says

    Wonderful! As I grow older it becomes an ongoing discussion, with myself, and also with my wife, as to how to break away from the fear of the unknown and remain the creative persons God wants us to be. Thanks so much for this post. When earth and heaven are joined, we will remain the creative and adventurous persons God intends us to be.

  8. Well said. Now the question to me is, “Why won’t I surrender to Jesus’ leading and jump?”.

  9. interesting idea, that too much thought about our safety could stifle creativity.

    i agree that, in our beliefs and understanding of God and what to do, we do tend to
    try and come up with a formula, until we realize that it is about following and
    living by the Spirit of God.

    God created creativity,
    and in Jesus, we can learn a lot about it.

  10. Lisa Hayward says

    As an artist, I have always naturally looked for the best in others..seeing beyond where they are at and what they could be. I have always believed this was a gift from God..a chance to see as He sees, to think as He thinks and to try to love and He loves.
    I no longer do that. I have built myself a mountain high above humanity. Why? Well, in all the years that I have fearlessly reached out to others, I have been mocked, shamed, physically abused, emotionally battered, discarded, literally spit upon, and treated repeatedly with hatred by people that had no vision, no faith, no love in their hearts, and those that were just bullies.
    I ask God daily, what did He ever see in our selfish, screwed up species? I really don’t know. Perhaps it is for the reasons described above, that we do not have a creative witness about us.

    • Lisa, my heart is truly saddened at what you have experienced and I, too have known what you’ve experienced.

      What I invite you to do is read what you’ve written and put Jesus in your place. It describes exactly the suffering servant who experienced the same things you did. He did it because He loves you. Try to look at these experiences as a taste of what Jesus did for you so you can come to grasp, however slightly, the great depth of His Love for you. Never close yourself off from His Love. He doesn’t condone abusive situations. Jesus suffered with you and He knew first hand what you were going through. Let His love heal your heart. Let Him teach you how to love others while loving yourself enough to stay safe. I pray Jesus will powerfully speak to you and comfort you from within your own art and creativity.

      • Lisa Hayward says

        Hi Daisey! You are correct in thinking about what Jesus went through. It was not good. I am deeply appreciative of your prayer and compassion. Thank you. It will take some time, but I am sure at some point, after some healing, I will be ready to reach out again and try to show the love of God to others.

        • Lisa, I am with you all the way !! 🙂

          wish I knew how to add real smiley faces…imagine a great big one right here!

  11. It takes Faith to jump into that river. Is the water raging or is there a Lifeguard ready to swim with you feel as though you’ll drown? I think Jesus is a great swimmer. *Splash*


  12. Beautiful and inspiring. These thoughts are so in sync with my own. I’ve developed a discovery group for women that uses creativity to help them discover who God created them to be. It has been so freeing for those who have experienced it and for me as I’ve seen lives changed and as my life has been changed.

    I find it helpful to connect with people who are on board with these ideas and to support each other as we reach out into our communities. They are out there. It may take some looking and some risking, but they are there.

  13. Wow, talk about not understanding the Truth of the Bible. What in the world does all that mean?? Lisa, God saw nothing good after Adam sinned in humanity. We are all guilty and fall short of the glory of God. Therefore, we all stand condemned to hell unless we find our rightousness in the the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross(that is the Gospel by which we are saved). In His mercy, He decided to save some and the rest who don’t believe get what they deserve, which is hell.
    What does what the author of the article above have to do with knowing God? We come to know God thru His Word. That is where your hope lies, not in your creativity.
    That article sounds New Age to me.

    • Pam, thank you for being here with us. Somehow, however, I think you are missing the point on some things. First of all, God’s Word is Jesus, not the Bible. The Bible reveals Jesus to us, starting with Genesis 1:1–In the beginning, God created…

      We see in the very first verse of the Bible that God is a creator. He is an artist. And we are made in his image, so we are all artists. The author of this article, Cole NeSmith, is encouraging us all to leave the safety of what we can understand of God and jump into the river of the Holy Spirit. Following God is not safe, nor is it trouble-free. But it is good.

      There is nothing “New Age” about following our Creator God as artists.

      • Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed, the Word. And the Word is what is written about in the Bible. No problem with being an artist. We just need to follow what the Word of Truth, the Bible tells us. Scripture reveals who God is. What in the world does he mean by jumping into the River of the Holy Spirit?? The Spirit lives in Christians, those who have found their safety in the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Spirit convicts us thru the Word, the Bible. When I say New Age, I mean looking for Jesus outside the bounds of who Scripture says He is. You can’t do that, or you could come up with a different Jesus than the one in the Bible.

        • Jumping into the river of the Holy Spirit is a metaphor. When a person jumps into a river, he is swept away beyond his own strength, taken to a place that he may not know. The river represents the power of God to carry us and lead us; the jump represents the the act of faith by which we yield ourselves to God’s power.

          You honor the Bible, Pam, obviously. The Bible itself uses metaphor, as well as simile, hyperbole, and many other rhetorical devices. To understand the Bible we need to understand things like metaphors and similes. Jeremiah uses a simile when he says that the man who trusts in the Lord will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream (Jer. 17:7 and 8). He is not making a new-age claim that men and trees are one and the same thing; he is making a comparison.

          Metaphor is not new age. Jesus uses metaphor and related turns of phrase frequently. Perhaps you’re so familiar with them you don’t think of them as such, but phrases like “I am the bread of Life” or “By their fruits shall ye know them” are metaphorical, not literal.

          So I think a modern writer may also use metaphor to convey truths about God without being new age. And modern readers have the responsibility to read with care and discernment.

          • ^ This

            Another helpful verse: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

            Obviously the writer is not presenting literal wind as divine, but creating an instructive (and poetic) mental image. I don’t see the essay above as doing anything different.

  14. By the way, what are you all so afraid of if you are born from above, believing the Gospel, and obeying the Word of God? What are you not jumping into??
    Just wondering.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Pam, there’s another Righteous Commenter on this blog who I really think you should meet. His name’s Mark, and he’s Born From Above, Bible Believing, and Obeying the Word of God (and constantly reminding all us Heretics and Apostates of the fact).

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    There is this classic SF story called “The Humanoids” or “Creation of the Humanoids” where mankind creates a servant class of robots or androids (the Humanoids of the title) whose Prime Directive is “keep humanity safe”. And they do.

    By the end, the Humanoids have all the remaining humans on Earth in permanent medically-induced comas to prevent them from doing anything Unsafe (if they woke up, they might do something to hurt themselves — like stand up and risk falling), turning them every two hours to prevent bedsores.