Safiyah Fosua, Greater New Jersey Annual Conference
Of late, I frequently hear the call of the wheel and the loom. This year, I bought a large, Norwood, four-shaft floor loom and a Schacht, castle-style spinning wheel. The intent was to begin collecting “retirement toys” while I am still employed enough to pay for them. My rationale was to have a new craft or two to break me out of several mind-numbing routines that were threatening to swallow my soul. I did not realize that Ms. Norwood and Ladybug (as they have been named) would become God’s instruments to awaken my soul.
At the wheel, a handful of sheep’s wool begins to resemble yarn or thread. At the loom bench, an orderly tangle of threads becomes cloth. Both acts of creativity satisfy the longing of my soul to imitate the creativity of the One who created me, in ways the mundane and unimaginative tasks of ministry cannot. Like many of you, I am exhausted after working my way through the to-do pile. For me, the pile contains assignment grids, rubrics, correcting grammar, or grading papers from an assignment that I have been giving students for the last ten semesters. For you, it may be hospital calls, staff meetings, budgets, sermons, and Bible study lesson plans. All require that we be fully present, that we be Christ to those on the receiving end. However, as I am honest with myself, I recognize that so much of what we do in ministry as we know it these days does not require huge amounts of creative energy.
Yet my soul cries out to be creative, even when I am too tired to engage in the creative processes that birth poetry from the numinous cloud inside of my head onto the printed page. Even when I am dragged-out tired and bleary-eyed, however, I can spin wool into thread and sit at the loom in awe as I watch colored threads become patterned cloth. And sometimes, a bit of poetry also finds her way to my yellow note pad while the creative flood gate is barely propped open.
So then, in this call of the wheel and the loom, I experience a call to remembrance. There, I remember that I am created in the image and likeness of the One who is introduced to us in Genesis as the Creating One. I am called to remember that even the call to discipleship and evangelism is a call to creativity. We are co-creators with a God who creates one family of the disparate human factions that we have created. We midwife the rebirth of souls that have often been reduced to nothing but despair and whispered prayers. It requires creativity to gather the isolated to community, the self-contained to covenant, and the world-weary to the safety of the gospel of peace. And, if we are attentive to the cries of the earth, she, also reaches out to us for creative restoration.
At the wheel, I also remember that one act of creativity often begets, or opens the doors for. others. It is no accident that so many who have accepted the call to ministry also paint, sculpt, construct things, play, sing, or write music, or engage in countless other acts of creativity. They have stumbled upon the secret that, for them—for us—one act of creativity frequently opens the door for others. The tactile stimulation of wool into thread, the repetitive click of knitting needles, the messiness of batik, or the physicality of kneading dough or pounding fufu often busy the restless body long enough for thoughts from the heavenly realm to bubble up to the surface.
The creating spirit is our birthright. That spirit is within us. It is part of what it means to be created in the image of God. We who bear the Imago Dei are driven to imitate our Creator by hovering over the chaos of the mundane by creating something. The creating spirit is a cry for more than just subsistence. And so, no matter how rich or poor we are, you may finding several of us in a braiding circle, hovering over a head and creating something meaningful. Or you may find us working together on a quilt. You may be found hovering over piano keys, a drum, or a sitar until a new sound emerges; hovering over the breadboard, or the pounding stick, or the grinding bowl. All of these are acts of creativity.
Creativity is a part of meaning-making that distinguishes humans from others in the created order. It appears across our embroidered globe in expressions too varied to number. When the creating spirit is suppressed, so also are we. When it is flowing freely among us, we feel alive.
I end this essay as I began. Of late, I hear the call of the wheel and the loom.