Written by Molly Skaggs
Photographed by Greg Harris
Creativity is one of the core values of the 18 Inch Journey because we know it is a key for living out a thriving life with the Trinity. We believe that we were created by a beautiful and perfect Creator, and that one of the most wonderful gifts He gave to us as image-bearers of His likeness is our hunger for and ability to create. In the journey of Wholeheartedness, we have a deep need to use our own voices and hands to create something that tells our heart’s story. We have a need to communicate and a desire to be seen and heard. While the 18 Inch Journey is not a school whose primary focus is on students becoming better, more skilled artisans, we see important purpose in incorporating weekly rhythms of creativity in focused artistic areas for the students. These are necessary times for our hearts to exhale. One of these times are Collectives, one of our favorite school rhythms.
The Collectives range greatly in artistic focus. This year, our staff is able to offer Movement, Music, Writing, Bookmaking, Darkroom Photography, and Digital Storytelling. Before they arrived to the school, we sent these choices to the students and asked them to bravely choose a Collective where they felt their hearts would be challenged. Each week for two afternoons, our students break off into their groups to work out beautiful assignments with their leaders. They are confidently led into moments of facing the fears that challenge their greatness and keeps them from being exactly who He made them to be. Students are given opportunities to walk out the process of their hearts becoming more whole as they choose Belovedness over fear and shame. Sometimes, that looks like creating something by themselves; sometimes, that looks like creating and collaborating with others. Walking out the creative process is messy, andstudents often hit walls of fear, insecurity, and inadequacy. Yet, it never fails that each time, just when our students think they have absolutely nothing to say, they have a true face-to-face encounter with the Father. He meets them in their creative processes and through His love and value for them, they learn to love and value themselves. They learn how to fall back in love with creating from Love rather than from pressure to perform or be accepted by what they can do or make.
The Collectives are little families within the bigger 18 Inch Journey Family. Here, the students learn how to not only stand up and take back their own voices, but they learn how to bravely and joyfully fight for one another. They quickly discover that the more whole and free they become as individuals deeply loved by the Father, the only natural outflow of that love is lavishing encouragement on their fellow students. Collectives can be one of the most vulnerable spaces of the entire school because they invite students to be fully seen and known by God, themselves, and one another. Love is always the agenda. Joy is always the compass. Students’ hearts are recreated by the loving hands of Jesus in the midst of family encouragement, shared laughter and tears, and deep camaraderie and fellowship. The staff believe in the power of agreement and family fighting for each other, so much so that the Collectives are some of the safest places for sons and daughters to be reborn into who they always were meant to be, without pressure or competition, prideful striving or shameful hiding.
We are six weeks in now and find ourselves as a staff consistently amazed at the bravery, vulnerability, and beauty that has come forth from our students. The way creativity unravels the human heart is remarkable — it is full of confrontations with the truth of Love and becoming undone from the false identity of being only what you can do in order to really be loved, accepted or even forgiven and wanted. Creativity has a way of putting the shovel into our own hands and giving us opportunity to really find out who we are in the eyes of Perfect Love. It is all a part of the well-digging of Sustainability for a life lived in the Holy Spirit that we practice and cultivate in the 18 Inch Journey.
At the end of the school, we host our Collectives Presentation over two nights so that the whole 18 Inch Journey family can see, touch, and hear what the beautiful love of God has done inside of the hearts of our students in each collective. They are two of our biggest nights of family celebration and joy, and we are always undone and forever changed by the power of His love and the Gospel that has reawakened inside of them. Creativity has a way of Naming us as we have always been known and named by their Originator of our design, and it is our privilege as a staff to host these safe spaces for students’ hearts to be renamed forever.