In fact, for years, I used to do it in front of packed audiences of kids. I did this for two reasons. One: it was a way to reinforce the four elements of a narrative I had just taught them in a slideshow. Two: it was a powerful way to engage the imagination.
I would invite four kids up from the audience and ask each of them to come up with an element for a story we were creating, without consulting with each other. Then I’d take those four random concepts and weave them into an illustration of the key moment from that story – with 30 seconds to come up with it.
Arthur Koestler, one of the great writers and researchers of creativity, has written, “Creativity is a marriage between ideas which were previously strangers to each other.”
Forging that relationship is inspiring. (Though doing it in front of audiences is a bit more like intimidating.) It connects us back to the Creator.
Want to play the connection game? God inspired me today by connecting the three images I’ve given you above – with one obvious substitution.
Here’s the passage I read today in Isaiah:
14 Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
and reduce the hills to chaff.
16 You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the Lord
and glory in the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 41:14-16)
God is not disparaging Israel with this description. He’s giving us an image of a helpless creature. As I watched this worm slowly feel around for a way to escape my palm, it was hard not to pity it.
This is my obvious substitution. A threshing sledge was a heavy board with sharp, metal bits underneath that would be dragged over grain to break it up. The closest I could come to it was a grater from my kitchen.
A seemingly immovable obstacle. I took this photo in the Canadian Rockies a few years ago – they are much more awe-inspiring than my nearby Appalachians. Israel’s symbolic mountains -- their formidable enemies -- were equally intimidating.
The Lord is telling his people that he is the connection between these objects. This transformation of a helpless worm into a sledge that chews up entire mountains is his power, his glory, his commitment to them.
It’s easy to feel helpless before the mountains facing us all right now. In our house, with my wife and daughter heading back to school in the coming weeks, fear of the virus looms like a permanent peak in front of us. It throws a long shadow.
For I myself will help you.
Feeling helpless is a good framework for faith. God promises to personally get involved. Our “worminess” allows him space to reveal to us his transforming power and his love. Paul puts this idea in a slightly different metaphor: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor. 4:7)
God’s power in us. Another unlikely, but wonderful, combination.
God, we thank you for promising to help us. How we need your help! Chew up these mountains that loom over us, Lord. Then blow the chaff away. We will rejoice and glory in you, our Savior and Helper.
Reader: What’s your mountain?