How do you get your thoughts about God out of your head? <<Put some answers down in the comments at the end of this post!>>

Working on a large canvas piece about the idea of God as Utopia. © Rebekah Massiah, 2020.
Thinking about when God causes Overflow. © Rebekah Massiah, 2020.

“Sanctified intellect brought forth from the treasure house of God things new and old, and the Spirit of God was manifested in prophecy and sacred song.” [1]

Through the books of Samuel and Kings we find infrequent mentions of a school, or a company, of the prophets. I’ve been really inspired recently thinking about the kind of education these schools provided. Working in the contemporary secondary school education system allows me to see the good and the bad together, and while there are certainly a lot of good aspects (passionate teachers, interesting topics, effective learning methods), the main modus operandi of our education system is still competition and pressure to be the best. It is so hard to fit nurturing creativity into the constant motion of hour long lessons and syllabuses to stick to. But that is what I find myself wanting to teach. So where can this be taught?

My longing would be for churches, social enterprises and creative Christians to provide these kinds of education spaces. Spaces where the aim is not only to learn what is already there (to repeat it, remember it, and regurgitate it later), though this is an important part of our holistic education – but to develop within each of the students the ability to create and share new things to build others up. These things that we create bring new ways to demonstrate God’s true love and to reveal the Living God as light in the dark places of pain, neglect, sadness… which are around us.

Seventh-Day Adventists have a key belief that God is interested and cares about the wholeness of each human being.

Ellen White, a 19th Century prophet and one of the founders of the SDA church, wrote about these schools of the prophets that they, “were intended to serve as a barrier against the wide-spreading corruption, to provide for the mental and spiritual welfare of the youth, and to promote the prosperity of the nation by furnishing it with people qualified to act in the fear of God as leaders and counsellors.” [2]

There was a BBC Arts and UCL study called the Great British Creativity Test. It took data from almost 50,000 people in the UK to explore how creative activities can help us manage our mood and boost our wellbeing. The researchers found that there are three main ways we use creativity as coping mechanism to keep our emotions balanced and healthy:

  1. As a distraction tool – using creativity to avoid stress;
  2. As a contemplation tool – using creativity to give us the mind space to reassess problems in our lives and make plans; and
  3. As a means of self-development to face challenges by building up self-esteem and confidence.

We need spaces in our society that will become barriers to dangerous ways of thinking, and will instead teach us how we can care for our mental and spiritual welfare and become resilient to the problems that surface and seem to try again and again to knock us over. I have so many students in my class at school who are so unhappy with the way they look, or have such low self-esteem in their abilities, or can’t imagine why anyone would like them and so keep pushing friends away. It is heart-breaking to sit with these 11-year-olds as they cry uncontrollably because they don’t have any sense of knowing how to navigate these disruptions. They barely even know where to turn to find someone who does.

Seventh-Day Adventists have a key belief that God is interested and cares about the wholeness of each human being. This became what is called ‘the Health Message,’ and it means that we also need to care about someone’s whole wellness – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally.

We need this kind of education. We know that the schools of the prophets back in Samuel and Kings valued creativity from verses such as 1 Samuel 10.5: “there you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute and lyre playing in front of them.” And at one point their praise, creativity and prophesying was so wonderful and captivating that anyone who came and saw them found themselves also praising and prophesying of God (1 Samuel 19.20ff).

If the schools of the prophets deemed creativity necessary for their holistic education, then I am fairly certain it is still essential for me. We need time to joyfully express our feelings, emotions and thoughts toward God.

In nearly every sphere of my life I am driven by productivity. But it is in the moments when I finally suppress that urge, and I seek to express my relationship to God just for the joy of it, or just because the prayers I want to say don’t have words yet, or because the situations around me seem too dark to even breather in – that I truly meet my Maker.

When did you last take time out to express your thoughts to God? In poetry, in prose, in music, in dance, in painting, in colouring, in collage, in photography, in a journal, in anything??

I’d love to know your answers in the comments. We can help each other to find new ideas for how to develop our own creative disciplines with God. We need to find ways to extend our own education with God, and then to encourage and influence this kind of holistic education in the world around us.

I pray God will lead us to The Way!

Faith to fall. © Rebekah Massiah, 2020.

[1], [2] Ellen White, Education, pp.46-8

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