Who said you couldn’t?

Softball practice was rained out last night so I picked Ally up a couple hours early and brought her home. She was not so thrilled to hear of my recent simplification…a fast from cable tv and internet. As I started dinner I suggested she paint or do something with the water colors I had nearby. “I can’t,” she said. “What?” “I can’t.” I went on to explain that every kid knows how to sing and dance and draw and paint until someone tells them they can’t. “Who told you you couldn’t?” I asked. “I don’t know I just can’t.”

It made me think of a conversation that happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve made a choice that effected us all. They decided to look out for their own interests rather than trust God. Then God asked a series of questions with the third one being, “Who told you you were naked?”

We often talk about the Fall bringing sin, blame, and shame to humanity but I think one of the most overlooked tragedies is the accusation of nakedness we are saddled with…“you are lacking…you don’t measure up…you should be embarrassed…you should be inhibited…you’re not at all what you should be…so hide.” Thus the quiet whisper of, “you can’t paint, you can’t sing, you can’t tell a joke or a good story,” robs us of opportunities and steals away our childlike joy.

There was no way I could make Ally try. So just for kicks I put some music on, got the paper, brushes, & paints out and put a mug of water on the table next to them. Then I went about my business. Within seconds she was busy creating a beautiful beach scene with the temperamental art supplies.

When dinner was ready she pushed her project aside. We talked and laughed and ate and cleaned up. Then I took a seat on the couch. I could see my daughter out of the corner of my right eye, seated at my kitchen table working on her water color masterpiece. At some point she got past her artistic nakedness. How? A little encouragement, a little permission, and a few of the raw materials necessary for it to happen. Basically an environment was provided for her creativity to win out over the voice of “you can’t, you shouldn’t, don’t try.”

I haven’t always been good at that…and perhaps I’m still not. But I think we need to give up the engineering metaphor. We need to stop; trying to make our churches run as smooth as a machine, our ministries firing on all cylinders, and looking at our homes as places where everything should fit together like cogs on a wheel.

I don’t think the only reason for all the agricultural images in scripture is because they lived before the industrial age. I think God intended to help His people create environments where the enemy’s accusations would be drowned out by the sounds people who had been freed to experiment and sing and paint and tell stories and try new things.

So you know that thing you’ve been thinking about, dreaming of, and dying to try?

Who told you you couldn’t?


2 thoughts on “Who said you couldn’t?

  1. I was led to believe that the arts were a contradiction to academics, and that the more entrenched I was in academics, the more I believed my ability to create art had atrophied. The judgmental nature of academics, rather than the formative, nurturing nature of creation, squelched my creativity.

    It’s been a journey of several years now, but every day I get it back more because I’ve freed myself to experiment with art–making jewelry, drawing, decorating.

    We have to be willing to take risks. Art is not as safe as a math equation, but it sure allows significant freedom to explore.

    If we all look around for environments that help us create, like the one you created for Ally, and we gave ourselves the opportunity to experience art as we did when we were children, with wild abandon, who knows what will happen? But it will be wonderful.

  2. “Ish” …. a great children’s book about this very thing. I’ve had it sitting on a shelf in my office and just gave it away to someone who I thought would enjoy it!

    “treeish” “flowerish” are terms that the main character uses to encourage her brother to continue drawing and enjoy the process. She is inspired to begin writing poems that are “poemish”

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