The Power of Words

March 31, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

"Every creative endeavor becomes a realization of both how limited and how unlimited we are." — Erwin Raphael McManus

There are words posted all over my home. BIG words, little words, words over door frames and stuck on mirrors, scriptures and prayers, reminders and encouragements, even subtle warnings. I'm talking everywhere. Every room. Nearly every wall and bookshelf. 

Words have power. The words we say, the words we read, the music we listen to, even (maybe especially) the television we choose to watch. Pretty sure I've made that clear here before — words mean a LOT to me (I was an English major, after all). So I do not take lightly this task of posting content worthy of your time. But as each day of each month ticks away, I am overwhelmed and paralyzed by the ideas and topics swirling through my mind like a mobile over an infant's crib — fascinating, mesmerizing, yet lulling me into lethargy. Where do I begin? So. Many. Words. I can't do this. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

In order to keep MY word, my "promise" to God, as it were, to post at least one (positive, life-giving) entry per month here on this blog, I have been contemplating and struggling, procrastinating and stewing, beginning the process and stopping, hating what I've come up with and ready to throw in the towel altogether because does it really matter anyway? It's not like I've got a production manager tapping her foot behind my desk warning that my first draft is overdue and I'd better get crackin'. It's not like I've got a massive following on Instagram or Facebook (both of which I feel like quitting because of what a colossal distraction they are) eyeing the calendar in breathless anticipation of my next post. It's not even like God is "expecting" me to come through, urging me to get some content published by my self-imposed deadline. Or is He? Did God really say . . . ?

I fully believe that God speaks to us not simply through His living, active, Holy Word, but also through the Spirit-filled words of those around us. It is no coincidence that on March 24th and 25th, Emily P. Freeman's links on Facebook (ministering directly to my procrastination and fear) were titled "For When You Feel Behind" and "When You're Not Cut Out for This." God figuratively winked as I realized that Emily originally published these entries to her blog in 2011 and 2012. Seriously, they were reposted just last week solely for my benefit (said every other struggling writer out there). I can (and have) come up with a million excuses why I don't really have the energy or focus to keep at this, fueled by self-doubt and the rationalization that I have "better" things to do with my time. Get to work, Laura. Write it down. You CAN.

And then of course yesterday, I happened upon the chapter in The Artisan Soul entitled "Canvas," wherein Erwin Raphael McManus brilliantly proposes the idea that even God, in creating the universe and all its goodness, including me and you, had to work within certain contextual constraints. He may not have had a deadline per se, but He had a specific plan, a mission, and wow did He nail it. This excerpt is lengthy, but because it blew my mind, I am compelled to share it all (emphasis mine):

"The culminating act in Genesis 1 is the creation of humanity. In a very real sense, the earlier creative acts were far less limiting than God's final act. When energy is transformed into matter, there are endless possibilities of how that could play out. But in this final creative act, the creation of the first man, there is far more context and thus the creative process is more complex. The canvas is smaller, so the work of art has to be even more detailed. The creation of man could not be based on whim or boundless imagination. The man had to fit the material already created. God took clay from the earth, material that already existed, and created a living being who had to fit the detailed intricacies of the living system he had already created. Creating man was for more complex than creating light. Creating humanity in the image of himself was a far greater creative act than even creating the universe with all its complexity and wonder. 

In some ways, we could say that God painted himself into a corner. When God created us, he didn't have a lot of options. We had to be able to breathe oxygen; we had to be able to drink water; we had to be able to eat what the earth provided; we had to fit the canvas. A lesser artist would have felt paralyzed, incapable of completing this masterpiece. For God, though, the opposite was true. He reveled in the challenge. He took great pleasure in creating a creature whose material is the substance of the earth and whose essence is the image of God. And yes, this is a wonderful reminder that we are a work of art, and the limitations that often lead us to conclude that we're only human should move us to celebrate that we are in fact incredibly human."

I love discovering things about God that make me feel closer TO God. McManus's words, for me, are powerfully inspiring, and so I offer them up to you with prayerful expectation you might be equally moved and encouraged. While fully aware that this is simply one author's take on creation history, I find his ideas to be revelatory and incredibly insightful. To ponder the God of the universe as a "struggling" artist (albeit an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent one) brings His presence directly to my fingers on this keyboard, right into the very heart of what I am attempting at this moment. It makes Him human and relational, contemplative and purposeful. I feel camaraderie in the struggle. God did it. We are one. I can do all things through Him.

Infinitely more incredible than God's creative finale (humanity), is His culminating act of redemption — our Lord Himself, in human form, sacrificed on a cross for our sins. McManus artistically asserts, "For the singular act that brought salvation to the world, God chose what for him must have seemed the smallest of canvases and the most common of materials. To do his greatest work, he embraced his greatest limitations." Seriously alters my contemplation of Good Friday in the most remarkable way.

You do not have to work as an artist or even consider yourself creative to appreciate the fact that you are an incredible work of art. You are inherently creative, in whatever way, shape or form is uniquely yours, because you were created by the master artisan, whose image you bear. Let's continue to celebrate this Easter season embracing our limitations while doing the work God has called us to do, whatever that work happens to be, no matter the effort in doing it. Press on. Fit YOUR canvas. You CAN because He did.

For further inspiration on limitless creativity and the power of words, I highly encourage you to check out Jeremy Cowart's "I'm Possible" video on Youtube. Best 25 minutes you will spend today. Trust me.


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