Where does inspiration come from? Is it a moment of personal genius? The voice of God speaking directly to us? Or is it the result of good, old-fashioned hard work? Maybe, it’s both.
On this blog, we’ve talked before about whether or not inspiration even exists, but if it does, I’m curious. Where does it come from? Can it be cultivated? Is it something far off and hard to find? Or is inspiration as close to us as our own breath?
The word inspiration literally means to “breathe in.” When babies are born, when they begin to live, they breathe. Likewise, we all need inspiration — the breath of life — to truly live.
The kiss of inspiration
I received my first kiss when I was approximately eight years old. In the basement of my aunt’s house, my cousins and I devised a game called “kissing tag” and invited a couple of girls over to play.
The rules were simple:
- You had a ball.
- You threw the ball at a person of the opposite sex.
- The person hit had to kiss the thrower.
I was excited, because this meant the possibility of my receiving my first real kiss. At first, I avoided the ball. Until I realized no one was throwing it at me.
In my preparation for this moment, what I hadn’t anticipated was my older cousin’s good looks and Italian charm stealing the show. After 10 minutes of realizing the ball had not even grazed my body, I left the game, stomping up the stairs. I sat and sulked.
A few minutes later, I heard a creak in the steps. It was one of the girls. She asked me what was wrong.
I said, “All I’m getting from this stupid game is a headache.” I was quite clever (and manipulative) for an eight-year-old. She nodded solemnly, sitting on the step next to me. She had the ball in her lap.
She breathed out and then in. Then, she turned to me, placing the ball in my lap. She leaned in slowly, close enough for me to feel her breath on my cheek and whispered two words that to this day haunt me: “You’re it.”
And then, she kissed me.
She darted down the steps, and I raced after her, pegging her with the little ball. And she kissed me again. Then, I threw it at the other girl. There was no stopping me now. I was Cassanova.
We all need encouragement
Something happened with that kiss, nothing other than the swift brush of lips against my cheek, of course. But something changed inside of me. At that moment, I changed.
That kiss encouraged me in more than a hormonal way. It brought life to my little boy body and made me into a man. I went from believing that I could do something to knowing that I would do it. This is how inspiration works. We all need the kiss of encouragement to do the job that we’ve been given to do.
I am reminded of a story in the Bible in which Jesus appears to his followers, the very people whom he’s trained and entrusted to carry on with his work. There’s just one problem — they’re not doing it. They’re afraid.
They have the skills and the experience. But they lack the encouragement, the power within, to do what they must do. So he does something strange. He breathes on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” And then he sends them out into the world to change the world.
And change the world, they do.
We need more than calling. We need more than gifts. We need inspiration. And it comes from others, in mysterious and unexpected ways. But it comes. And if we will look for it, we will find it. And it just might be closer to us than our own breath.
How do you find inspiration? Share in the comments.