The Gifted Blog

October 21, 2010

Makoto Fujimura and God's Gift | Why We Make

I write The Gifted Blog because I love to create. I've been thinking about what it means to be a Christian and to love making things. I hope the reflections in this series will be jumping-off points for thoughtful discussion among us, no matter your spiritual background. For the whole series, click here.

A friend introduced me to the work of artist Makoto Fujimura soon after my son was born. Amidst countless rounds of nursing and diaper changes, I read his writing and was energized. Internationally recognized, Fujimura combines classical training in Nihonga with abstract expressionism. But his personal history is what moved me most.

Though American-born, Fujimura spent most of his childhood in Japan. He spoke little English when his family returned to the States at age 13. His teacher, seeing that he could draw but had difficulty understanding the lessons, let him make art projects related to what the class was learning. He writes (emphasis mine):
I distinctly remember one day working on a bulletin board image of George Washington crossing the Delaware river on a horse. My teacher, in encouragement, brought other teachers around to show them my work. That day, a lady, a substitute teacher, came by, took one look at the bulletin board, turned to me, and said, "You can't waste God's gift, can you?"
Makoto Fujimura, Olana - Matthew Six, 2007-2009

Fujimura would become a Christian later in life, but at the time was not religious. He continues:
I wonder if a comment like this in a public school today would get a teacher in trouble. I am amazed that I can remember her face, her tone, and her face very clearly, despite having understood very little English at the time. You can't waste God's gift. Even then, such a statement did not seem odd to me. I was given a gift, and I can't waste God's gift. (pg 13, River Grace)
These words were reflected back to me while reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a spiritual guide to nurturing creativity. She writes, "Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God."

Makoto Fujimura, Charis, 2008

Using our gifts is a gift back to God. As a parent, this has fresh meaning. When we give a gift to our 2-year old N, we want him to use it! That wooden drum is wasted if it sits by the toy bin. His play conveys his appreciation. His enjoyment is a gift back to us. How beautiful that God enjoys our enjoyment of the gifts He's given us. That use of our creativity is not an exercise in vanity, but an appropriate response to having received it.

Using our creative gift is not the only way to give back to God. There are other priorities that need our attention. But let's not waste God's gift. Let's play with it, develop it, refine it - as our gift back to Him.

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  1. Love this post! I recently went on a Women's Retreat where I was inspired to use art and creativity to connect to God, so this speaks right into what I was thinking :)

  2. @Mika - That is awesome. Was creativity a theme of the retreat, or is that something that came up for you more specifically?

    Either way, you have a gift. Work it! God takes pleasure in your enjoyment.

  3. I rarely take the time to read a lot of the commentary in a blog but your writing touches my heart. God Bless You!

  4. I love this post! It is definitely a paradigm shift for me. Your example of enjoying when someone uses a gift you give them sheds new light for me. "That use of our creativity is not an exercise in vanity, but an appropriate response to having received it." That's so true! This got me thinking of what creative gifts I've received and whether or not I'm using them...

  5. @beechbanker - Thank you so much for the encouragement.

    @Shawna - Thanks for your comment! Yes, this has helped me see that God enjoys seeing us use the gifts he's given to us (of which you have received many!). And I just realized how awesome it was for Fujimura to have a teacher who was tuned into his gifts. We would all benefit from a teacher like that, someone who makes space for our gifts and is bringing others around for encouragement.

  6. Charissa, as usual it took me time to mull over this. Besides guides/teachers, I feel that sometimes adverse events can also help us go inwards and help the creativity blossom in most unexpected ways. Like when one has a deep need to not let negativity overpower us, and we can try to make something beautiful to focus on good. I remember my grandmother always made flowers, even in her grief over losing a son. I still have some of her flowers, it was like her connection with her soul showing up. -Namitha

  7. Thanks for this post Charis. I love it. Very encouraging! I also really like the art you posted to go with it, and your example of loving to see N. with his gifts. :-) thanks. xx

  8. @Namitha - What a beautiful story about your grandmother. Yes, it's interesting that both encouraging and discouraging circumstances can drive us to creative production. I never thought of my creative work as very motivated by adversity, but I'll have to pay more attention.

    @Lexie - Thank you for the feedback and affirmation! I miss you, friend.


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