There once was a time when humans had to make everything if they wanted to survive. Homes, clothes, food, transportation. Their days were spent with making, maintaining, harvesting, and repairing just about everything in their world. And because of this, life could be hard and exhausting.
Then along came genius inventions to make life easier, and suddenly humans were no longer required to make it all. Food could be bought pre-packaged and ready to heat up—or simply bought as take-out from a fast food restaurant. Clothes could easily be purchased in stores, or even better, bought online without stepping foot outside the house. Cars made commuting faster, so people could travel longer distances. Washing machines and dishwashers eliminated long hours of tedious chores.
All of this allowed people to spend time on different kinds of jobs—jobs that involved higher-level thinking, inventing, and solving new kinds of problems. But at the same time, is it possible there was something valuable that was lost as people stopped making things hands-on in their daily lives?
I began mulling over this possibility when I read Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport a few years ago and read the section called “On Craft and Satisfaction.” Newport makes an argument for reclaiming leisure (in the absence of so much time on screens) and part of that is through “craft” which he defines as “any activity where you apply skill to create something valuable” (p. 177).
He cites several other people and books who delve into the value of making things with your hands, and ultimately comes to this conclusion: “Craft makes us human, and in doing so, it can provide deep satisfactions that are hard to replicate in other (dare I say) less hands-on activities” (p. 179).
Reading this section ignited something in me I didn’t know was there—a hunger for the satisfaction of making things. That year, I began trying my hand at making things and found a new sense of joy in doing so. I discovered the peace that came from sitting and painting with friends. I expanded my creativity with hand-lettering. I picked up my crochet hook and found a soothing rhythm in creating yarn square after yarn square. I tried new recipes and delighted in making food actually taste good.
There is a time and place for buying things. Certainly in our 21st-century lives we can’t make everything from scratch, and needs necessitate convenience.
But there is a joy that comes from making that we don’t get from being a fast-paced consumer.
When I take the time in my kitchen to chop the potatoes and veggies, make my own marinade sauce, and cook it in my oven, the food tastes better (and it’s also healthier).
When I thrust my hands into soil, water my own plants, watch seedlings grow, see the fruit ripen, and then pick it from the vine, there is deep satisfaction and reward.
When I crochet row after row of yarn until a blanket emerges, I find pride in making something beautiful and useful.
We were created to be makers after our Master Maker. He designed us to find delight in the process of making instead of always quickly and easily reaping from mass production. We feel our humanness and our connection to the Creator as we make—and we feel the due rewards of our labor as we toil through the process, coming out as a richer person on the other side.
In our fast-paced lives, we often conclude there’s no time for making. And for some, that might be true. For many others, they may simply be spending their margins of down time in other ways, such as on watching TV shows or scrolling on social media.
But what if we found even one thing that we enjoyed making—from music to a good meal to a patio planter to a baby blanket—and we started weaving it into our daily lives? What if we silenced other distractions in our lives and simply focused on the one thing in front of us—that which our hands were molding and shaping?
Too often in our world, we fear making something because we aren’t an expert or we’re afraid of how it will turn out. We’re not willing to experiment or to fail a little bit or to start over. And therefore we miss out on the beauty of making. Making things is harder than buying them. It does take longer. It requires effort and patience and discipline. And this is part of the beauty of the process.
Maybe as we force our minds away from cheap entertainment and mindless activities into that discipline of making, we’ll recover some of the qualities our long-ago ancestors had. Maybe we’ll find that living life away from screens and plunged more deeply into reality is good for our souls. Maybe we’ll discover parts of ourselves we didn’t know were lost. Maybe God will remind us of purpose again as we find joy in the making.
Maybe as we spend time molding tangible things to become something valuable, we’ll see how he’s molding our very souls into the most valuable thing—a portrait of Christ himself.
Photo by Earl Wilcox on Unsplash.
4 thoughts on “The Joy of Making”
Lydia, this is very well said! I love it!
Making and the support of the importance of making has been a side interest of mine for some time. You have weaved your worlds well to tell us why this is important in the kingdom of God! Thank you!
Thank you so much, Stacy, for your kind & enouraging words!
Whoops! Meant say words not worlds.
I love this! Sometimes it’s a struggle to get away from the screens when work is demanding but it’s always worth it and there is so much joy from creating something with my own two hands. Thanks for sharing.