Waiting Under the Apple Tree
I envied my friend's job: five times a week he types out a column for a big city newspaper, poking fun at local politicians and red tape . . . and gets paid! Then he shared with me the horror of running out of ideas—the humor not jelling—sitting at a keyboard in frustration while the minutes ticked away. “Everybody thinks my job is so easy,” he said. “But there’s nothing harder than having to create with a deadline. Sometimes the ideas just don’t come.”
Think about two of the most famous “aha!” moments, when ideas did come to Archimedes and Isaac Newton. What were they doing? Supposedly, one was soaking in a tub and the other was sitting under an apple tree.
Sometimes the ideas come when we’re quiet, reflective, free-associating. At other times, bouncing our thoughts off others helps stimulate our creativity. And sometimes great innovations or answers come like flashes of lightning when we’re busy doing something unrelated. Whatever the circumstances, it seems to me ideas only come when our subconscious is almost consumed with finding them . . . when possible answers are constantly simmering just under the surface, and finally erupt. We go about business as usual, but those nagging little questions wait back in a corner of the brain. Thinking creatively requires that kind of single-minded focus as well as random dreaming. It means depending on others when we brainstorm and listening to God when He whispers.
Jesus is the epitome of creative humility. Most of the time, his words and gestures utterly confounded conventional wisdom. Think about this one: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). Not to mention most of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5). Envision him washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:12-17). And my favorite of Jesus’ paradoxical, mind-blowing statements: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
Say what? Freedom lies in surrendering control? Now that’s creative thinking. And somehow I take comfort in the fact that Jesus at one time probably built yokes for a living. With his own hands, he crafted these instruments to fit easily and work effectively. Whether woodworking or preaching or healing, he was consumed with his creative purpose.
In Matthew 12:18-21, after healing many people, Jesus used a quotation from Isaiah 42:1 to describe himself. I love the way The Message puts it:
“Look well at my handpicked servant;
I love him so much, take such delight in him.
I've placed my Spirit on him;
he'll decree justice to the nations.
But he won't yell, won't raise his voice;
there'll be no commotion in the streets.
He won't walk over anyone's feelings,
won't push you into a corner.
Before you know it, his justice will triumph;
the mere sound of his name will signal hope,
even among far-off unbelievers.”
How often do servants get to decree justice to the nations? How often do their names elicit hope? Only when the ultimate Creator and the ultimate Servant are at work. Illuminated by them, we can overcome convention, frustration . . . and yes, even writer’s block.