Rain hammered my windshield and lightning flashed through the sky as I pulled into the empty church parking lot, my car loaded full of art supplies, paper plates, and red Solo cups. I was already running late, and I knew my coworkers, Sandy and Rachel, were stuck in traffic and would be late as well. As I began to unload on my own, I knew we were in for an interesting evening.
As the staff that works most closely with devozine, The Upper Room’s teen devotional magazine, we were exploring new territory of ministry and taking the magazine to use directly in a local youth group. Reflecting the theme “Called to Create,” the cover of the current May/June issue is a blank canvas, encouraging teens to create their own artwork inspired by the devotional content of the magazine or their own experiences with God. This stormy Sunday evening would mark the third time we had hosted a “#CoverThisDevo Party” for a local youth group. The idea was to give the local youth leader a break from program planning, to help teens explore their God-given creativity, and show them how to engage with the magazine. We thought after two successful events, our plan was foolproof.
Sandy arrived about the time I finished unloading my car. We got in, started setting up, and as I hung up from my third attempt to order 12 pizzas for rush delivery, I thought, “This is a mess.”
Despite the rain, all 40 of the anticipated youth arrived on time, and the pizza was still nowhere to be found. Rachel finally made it as we scrambled to rearrange our schedule. As teenage stomachs growled louder than the thunder outside, we introduced ourselves and began leading the devotional time.
Forty-five minutes late and about halfway into the messiest part of the evening, the pizza arrived. Before we knew it, the paint-splotched napkins and capless felt-tip markers were joined by marinara-covered pepperonis and half-eaten pizza crusts.
Youth ministry is messy. Pizza is messy. Art is messy. On that stormy Sunday evening, I found myself in a room with all three. However, as I paced through the tables of teenagers painting, drawing, coloring, and writing, I soon realized that God was quite literally making beautiful things out of what I had perceived to be a mess.
It may not always happen according to our pre-planned schedules, but that night I was reminded that God indeed makes everything beautiful in its time (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).
After we posed the question “What does it mean to be called to create?” to a room full of teenagers, I gained a new understanding of this calling myself. When all I could see was a mess, God saw potential. As Christians, it’s our job to follow God’s lead, to look beyond the sticky situation and see the beauty that lies underneath. Allowing the Holy Spirit to do its creative work through us helps us see things with fresh eyes; a sudden downpour becomes a chance to lend someone your umbrella; a late pizza becomes an opportunity for more conversation; a mess becomes a masterpiece.
In every open tube of paint, there is a masterpiece waiting to happen. When we approach the messiness of life with that mind-set, we truly live out what it means to be called to create.
Dylan White is ministry engagement marketing manager for youth and young adults at The Upper Room.
To learn more about devozine, visit devozine.org.
“I praise God for the ministry of The Upper Room. After publishing a daily devotional, I received a message from a 16-year old in South Africa thanking me for lifting her out of depression.” Read Tony’s devotional here.