Although Skylar and Micah are gone now, happy reminders of their visit are everywhere. At one point last week we brought out a bin of jumbled dominoes, some black, others brown, still others with colored dots, and one ivory-white set.
As I tried to teach her how to play authentic dominoes, she added her own creative flare to the game by filling in every available space between tiles. We ended up with less of a dotty road and more of a domino doormat. Showing her how to stand them up and watch them fall in succession was frustrating when her line kept falling ahead of schedule, so Skylar pursued her other ideas.
She transformed the dominoes into little houses, then into people who talked back and forth. She used them as blocks and also separated them into like categories. One morning I came downstairs to find she’d carefully placed the white dominoes atop the white piano keys. Who needs domino rules with so many other ways to play with them?
Many of us adults have a similar bent toward creative game-playing, although with us it might be interpreted as “ditch the rules and do it my way.” Sometimes we approach God like that, acknowledging his Rule Book and how he wants us to play the game of life but then making a case for personal creativity so we can side-step him. So, how much creativity is too much? Is there any wiggle room with God?
He gives us 66 books detailing how best to live our lives. Then he says, “You can do it in many specific ways, and each life will look different. Be creative! There’s just one condition: stay within my protective perimeters.”
It’s that last part that gets to us, producing streaks of rebellion we hope God will see as creativity. But when he says “don’t” he means, “Don’t hurt yourself by disobeying me.” Along with his don’ts, he usually says, “If you do it your way instead of mine, here’s what your self-wounding will look like.” But when our creative juices get flowing and our own ideas seem superior to his rules, we often can’t help ourselves.
Thankfully, though, natural consequences are an effective teacher. With enough self-inflicted pain, we eventually understand that God wrote the rule book the way he did for reasons that would benefit us.
As for Skylar, ultimately we had to put an end to her creativity. Using the dominoes like missiles was a no-go. Through natural consequences (the dominoes going back to the basement) she learned creativity can, indeed, go too far.
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (Galatians 6:4, The Message)