I doubt it’s possible to be human without leaning into the world, leaning into the future. To be made in God’s image, the God of creation, the God of the future, is to have this disposition naturally occurring in human nature. Though because of sin and death, it frequently occurs bent and distorted, often leaning in wrong directions.
But the tendency is God-like, God-ly, which is why it’s so hard to shake. And that’s the point: you ought not try to shake it. You were made to be avant-garde in some fashion. You were made to be like your Maker, leaning into the world, pushing into the future, experimenting, testing, inventing, coming up with new things.
Literally, avant-garde is to be in the advance guard, the vanguard of the army, out in front. But out in front is the most dangerous place to be and for that very reason carries with it the greatest opportunities for glory. Heroes are in the vanguard.
So where is your avant-garde? Where is your heroic, creative side pushing forward? In modern parlance, avant-garde has often signaled a rebellion against Christian norms, though at times it has also been a weak-willed resistance to various forms of godless rationalism. To generalize up to the present, the avant-guard impulse in our culture has primarily been obsessed with playing with sexual categories: boys dressing like girls, girls dressing like boys, reversing rolls, blurring rolls, pretending there is no difference, encouraging sexual deviance and defending it fiercely with the blood of the unborn. But we were not made to unmake the world God created. We were not made to be destroyers. We were made to be creators, life-givers. We were made to be artists. We were made to glorify the world God created. We were made to transfigure the world God created. We were made to make the world shine with more of our Father’s glory.
True creativity honors God-given limits. This is like an artist honoring the canvas and the paints. When she honors the mediums she is working with, she has the freedom to push the limits of her art. But if she rebels against the canvas and against the paints, she will not end up with a truly creative piece of art, she will have rebelled against her art altogether. For a sculptor to honor the clay or the marble he is working with is to embrace the freedom inherent in the art. In the same way, Scripture gives us an enormous world full of life, full of different mediums, different palates, different canvases. This is no more a straightjacket than to insist that the play be performed on a stage or to insist that music have sound. It’s not legalistic to demand that ice hockey be played on ice or that baseball be played with four bases on a diamond. It’s the glory of the game to play within these limitations. It is within those limits that men dream and imagine and push themselves and one another to new glory.
When you embrace the God-given limits placed on you, your mortality, your finitude, your talents, your masculinity, your femininity, your frame, when you give thanks for the canvas of your life, you are setting up to play this game as it was intended to be played. You are preparing to make something truly radical, something fresh and innovative, something beautiful and astonishing, something truly avant-garde.