Why Discipline Fuels Creativity

God in the Rhythm with Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman, a titan in the world of Christian music, sat down with Family Life Radio for a brief conversation. With a career that spans over three decades, the artist reveals the secret behind his incredible success is a delicate balance of creativity and discipline.

“Creativity and discipline are not really good friends,” Steven begins. “Usually you’re like one running from the other. Creativity says, ‘Don’t put disciplines on me’ because, you got to let the wind blow you wherever it’s going to go, and you get ride the wave wherever it takes you.”

Many of us who feel that these two elements run counter to each other would agree with him. The Bible itself celebrates creativity as an image of God the Creator. Yet, Steven adds, “If I’m ever going to actually deliver something of significance, it’s going to require me to rein some of this in, try to capture it and that does require discipline.”

Steven points to a biblical principle easily overlooked: creativity thrives in the boundary of discipline. Consider the creation story; God created the world in a specific sequence, a form of discipline, making room for abundant life to flourish.

The Overflows of the Heart

Drawing from the wisdom of songwriter Michael Card, Steven emphasizes that “the best songs that he would write are not songs that come from him scraping the bottom of the barrel, but it’s overflow. It’s going to be what is actually coming out of my own personal experience of the grace of God, and God at work in my life.”

Steven Curtis Chapman

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 ESV). The most touching creations don’t come from a forced effort but from the overflow of a relationship with God.

Our creativity finds its purest form when it spills over from a heart full of God’s grace and wisdom.

“It’s just continuing to return to God’s Word,” Steven encourages. Jesus also said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 ESV).

Continually Return to God’s Word

Steven admits, “I don’t always do that. Even at this point in my life, struggling to go daily into  alone time with God, but there’s no question that the most impactful creative things that happen … would never come out of me without the discipline of taking and making time to be still, to be quiet, to listen, to read what God has to say and allow that to do its work in our heart – that would then create this overflow. That has truly been the things that have been most impactful.”

Steven Curtis Chapman

In our noisy world, Psalm 46:10’s call to “Be still, and know that I am God” often gets drowned out. Yet, according to Steven, it is precisely this practice that allows God’s truth to “do its work in our heart,” transforming both our art and our lives.

Pressing In During Pain

Life is not without its struggles. Steven shares, “Sometimes it’s out of pain. Sometimes it’s out of wrestling with God over something. ‘God. I’ve got to give this to you again. I’ve got to give it; I don’t understand it. I’m still struggling with this.’ It’s always coming out of those places of pressing in and to use the word discipline, to  make space for that in my life.”

Just like Jacob who wrestled with God and emerged with a blessing (Genesis 32:22-32), pressing into God during painful moments can be a crucible for spiritual growth.

If you find yourself torn between the extremes of wild creativity and rigid discipline, remember that a flourishing walk with God often dances beautifully between the two. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to let our lives and art be an overflow of this incredible relationship we have with God? It’s a challenging yet rewarding dance, and Steven Curtis Chapman shows us that it is possible.

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