We do our art no favors when we keep God at a distance. He’s not the stern professor who evaluates our efforts with a shrug. He’s a wild artist, creator of oceans and mountains, flowers and lions. He’s more passionate than us about our art, eager to create together if we’ll ask. ~Allen Arnold, on Twitter
In January, I attended a writers’ mini-conference given by Christian Writers of the West. The guest speaker was Allen Arnold, former fiction editor for Thomas Nelson. He spoke at length about inspiration and creativity and how the desire to create comes to us from God as an invitation to closer intimacy with Him.
Arnold’s presentation was so refreshing and invigorating and so full of ideas I wanted to explore further, that I bought two copies of his book, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, and Create. One was for myself, and the other for my friend Tom, who is struggling to finish writing a very important book. I gave it to him a few days later.
In the meantime, I began reading it.
A large part of The Story of With is an allegory, the story of Mia, a girl whose father disappeared long ago. I found the allegory kind of hokey. Each chapter ended with an explanation of that part of the allegory, which was necessary—I wouldn’t have understood the allegory without the author’s commentary. Which made me wonder—why would Arnold devote so much time and energy to the allegory if it didn’t clarify his premise (and instead required him to interpret it for the reader)? I regretted giving Tom the book before reading it myself.
But before I finished the book, I saw Tom again, and he shared that he had read the book straight through, moved to tears because it affected him so deeply. When I mentioned my disappointment with the allegory, he said for him, it didn’t detract from the message.
These passages from The Story of With especially resonated with me:
[God’s] motive in giving you specific talents isn’t primarily so you’ll be productive…It is so your desires can find their fulfillment in Him…God doesn’t need your help as much as He wants your heart (page 120).
The door will find you when you are ready (page 205).
True success means you create with the Creator, in fellowship with others, as you engage with the community your creation serves. With. With. With (page 213).
Living like this ushers in an atmosphere of abundance and freedom. There’s no longer a need to try and control your Story. You know God has even bigger plans than you for what’s ahead. So you are content to ride with Him wherever the path may lead (page 243).
I recommend this book for creative people, but with two caveats. First, if you have no use for God, The Story of With will make no sense to you; it will just be jibberish. (But if you are searching for God, you can find Him here.) Second, if you are looking for the way to make lots of money or fame from your creations, that goal is not addressed here. But if you desire freedom, high quality of creative life, and intimacy with God, you must read this.
Have you already read The Story of With? What is your opinion of it? Share in the comments below. And if you read the book later, come back and let us know what you think.