Alas! Elisha's servant cried,
When he the Syrian army spied,
But he was soon released from care,
In answer to the prophet's prayer.
Straitway he saw, with other eyes,
A greater army from the skies;
A fiery guard around the hill,
Thus are the saints preserved still.
Such are the words penned by John Newton in 1779, in a hymn entitled More With Us Than With Them. It's based on the story of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6:8-17. The servant awakes one morning to discover the Syrian army surrounds them. When he informs Elisha, the prophet calmly says, "Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."
And Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes so he may see." Then the Lord opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. -- 2 Kings 6:17 NIV
Please notice: There was no change in the servant's circumstances or environment. The transformation was in the servant himself. Yet this internal adjustment alters his entire perspective of reality.
Chuck Missler describes this as the Reveal Codes command on your computer. Selecting reveal codes allows you to view hidden, embedded computer language in your document; things like tabs, indentations, font sizes, alignment, spacing -- stuff that's usually invisible -- all come to life with this command.
My ruminations on creativity bring me to this story for it illustrates two major convictions of mine: (1) We are surrounded by wonder, surprise, mystery and genius -- chariots of fire! -- every day, and (2) We all have a reveal codes command, a God-given ability to see into, and beyond, the everyday.
Creativity is all about learning how to flip that switch.
Okay, maybe it's not as easy as "flipping a switch." Nevertheless, this ability to see "with other eyes" is what separates the ingenious from the obvious. But how do we do it? How do we train ourselves to observe the invisible? How do we cast off the shackles of the uninspired and spy the flaming chariots?
Well, how you do it is probably different than me. The important thing is that you keep your reveal codes command free of dust and enable it frequently.
The Inspired are infamous for the ways they seek inspiration. Kathryn Lindskoog, in her wonderful book, Creative Writing, For People Who Can’t Not Write, catalogues a cluster of these oddballs and their quirky search for the elusive muse:
If creativity is partly a matter of having the right brain waves going in the right part of the brain, what can a person do physically to enhance creativity? Many writers and thinkers have come up with ideas of their own. Bosset wrapped his head in furs, Schiller wrote with his feet in ice water and smelled rotten apples, Prouse lined his room with cork and kept the windows shut tight, Turgenev kept his feet in a bucket of hot water, Swinburne isolated himself, Oswald Sitwel wrote best in hotel bedrooms, Thackery wrote best inside the busy Athenaeum Club in London, Voltaire dictated while sitting in bed, Descartes and Rossini created flat in bed, Victor Hugo composed on top of a bus, Samuel Johnson thought best in a moving carriage, Trollope wrote in a train, Thackery and Sothey could get ideas only when holding a pen, Balzac drank poisonous quantities of black coffee, Tennyson got his best ideas in spring and summer, and Einstein got his best ideas while shaving. Woody Allen prefers to write on a bed, with no noise or music to distract him. Agatha Christie said that the best time for planning a book is when you’re doing the dishes.
I have to admit, I’ve never tried any of these methods (though I have drank near-poisonous amounts of coffee). The point here is: Find out what triggers that reveal codes button of yours... and do it. Whether it’s wrapping a fur around your dome or plunging your feet in ice water and smelling rotten apples; whether it’s standing on your head, laying flat on your back or doing dishes; whether it’s on the beach or in the garden or the hushed halls of the local library; whether it’s cranking rock or R&B or jazz -- if God’s gifted you to create then you must find the codes that unlock your creativity.
Right now, as you sit reading this, you are surrounded by an unseen army, heavenly horses and chariots of fire -- a dazzling, glorious, celestial display lurking just beyond the border of your senses. But in order to glimpse this far off land we must, as Newton put it, see "with other eyes." We must climb atop the bus, get the sea breeze in our face, or do the dishes -- whatever it takes -- to Reveal Codes.