Like most people, I spend my time trying to obtain things.
But the truth is, I am much better at losing things.
Unless we are talking about weight, in most situations I’d rather gain than lose. Add more to my resume or bookshelves than take away. Loss scares me. I hold tightly onto things, even ones I know good and well I should loosen my grip. I’d rather gain than lose. Collect then release. I chose more over less almost every time. Except Jesus always flips the story. The last becomes first and less becomes more.
Creative work is often knowing when to stop.
Rob Bell reminds us in Drops like Stars that “Great artists know that it isn’t just about what you add; sometimes the most important work is knowing what to take away. Removing clutter, excess, all the superfluous elements—and finding out in the process what’s been in there the whole time.”
A sculptor’s entire job is to remove, to find a huge piece of stone or wood and make it less. That the beauty is in there all along and someone just has to take the time to carve it out. To find it. To free it. To let everyone see what lies underneath.
The same is true of writing. I start by getting it all down, but the real work comes from removing–eliminating words that get in the way and confuse my message. Editing involves looking at each sentence carefully and making sure that it’s well-designed and serves its purpose. This sounds like John 15:2 where Jesus tells us that “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The dead and useless parts are cut away–we are made less so that we can be more.
Let’s be honest – most of us spend more time trying to cover up than we do revealing. We spend more time trying to become more rather than less. At least, I do. It is easier, safer, and a whole lot less vulnerable. But more isn’t art. It isn’t beautiful. It makes for a confusing story and rarely bears fruit.
I do not know loss like some people I know. I have never lost a parent or a sibling or God forbid a child. My losses are small ones.
Contracts with publishers.
Chances I let slip through my fingers.
And occasionally, my faith.
Every time I lose something I want to keep a tight hold of, it leaves behind this giant gap. A hole that I quickly try to fill with anything: books, chips and salsa, Netflix, people, running mile after mile hoping to leave the hurt and loss behind.
I have always felt a void. An ache. Like something is missing. And maybe it is because I had youth director after youth director tell me I was created with a God-sized hole that only He can fill. This led me to believe that if I still feel it, then maybe I don’t know God in the right context. That I am doing it wrong. That I don’t have enough faith. I suspect that all that isn’t true. That we ache because we were in fact made for more. That we are supposed to long for more, but maybe the kind of more we were made for comes from less. I do not think that the God who formed us from the dust, breathed his very spirit into us and then left this giant hole in our hearts hoping one day we will ask him to move in. That right until that moment we tried to fill it with girl scout cookies or wine or worse. And only after we say the right words that He slides in and fill us up. He pulls a Jerry McGuire and completes us.
God is not in the gaps. He has always been about wholeness. The ache we feel is maybe something we need to shed rather than something we need to fill. Little by little.
He is like a sculpture. The beautiful part —that was there all along. All we have to do is remove it.
The stuff that gets in the way.
The lies that sometimes are louder than the truth.
The ego. The greed.
The unnecessary. The excess.
Sometimes we must shed even the good parts that weren’t meant to be in our masterpiece. The beautiful words that are no longer part of our story.
I hate the carving and the pruning.
Loss, even minor ones, seem to flatten me.
Removal is painful.
Good art always is.
He is the potter and I am only the clay. He is the gardener and I am the vine.
Maybe there is not a God-shaped hole in me. Instead, there is only God. It is in being made less that we allow the God in us to be revealed.
The love and the beauty and the masterpiece that was in there the whole time.
Dr. Michelle Hurst is a wife, a mother of two, a writer and educator. She has written for (in) Courage, Grown and Flown, Her View From Home, and the Grit and Grace Project. Her favorite topics are faith, chronic illness, hope, relationships and middle age. When she’s not writing, she loves to read, hike, and nap. You can read more at http://www.michellewallishurst.com or on Instagram @michellewallishurst13
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