Escaping the Imagination Dustbowl (A Lesson in Comparisons, Part 1)

It’s interesting to take a peek out into the world and see what is happening in any particular field –  whether that’s art, music, entertainment, science, literature, or space travel. You needn’t look long before you find someone that is doing work you never dreamed of — work that will blow your wildest imagination into the dust.

One thing I have realized is that “into the dust” is not where I need my wildest imagination to live.

When I conduct research for new ideas, I try to keep this truth as well as Theodore Roosevelt’s famous words in mind, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Some new ideas came in the middle of the night just a short while ago (blogging was one).  I sat up straight out of my bed like some zombie in a horror movie and literally started dictating notes into my iphone.  Because I am such a champion procrastinator, I made a commitment to post something by a certain date (no matter what), and then edit and improve along the way.

I did that for a reason; I know me, and if I said I tend to rethink things, it would be a HUGE understatement. I’m very easily distracted.  Sorta like that dog in the Up movie …. SQUIRREL!!!!!

Actually, I think its fair to say I could be the reigning can-of-worms opening champion of the world.

But of course there is not such a thing. Something else comes along before the great match begins, and off everybody goes.  Good ideas – poor execution.  But I digress…. does this shock you?

I used to become paralyzed into inaction when I would encounter work that was more sophisticated or polished than mine.  I would keep adjusting until it wasn’t relevant anymore and it would land in the trash. Now that I have peeked past my little ipad book library, I have discovered a vast and fascinating land of giants (this blogging world is that), with new insights and fresh perspective at every turn.

Have you ever read stories where one of the characters gets stuck unknowingly in an eternal world?   Somehow they are transfixed or waylaid by something that fascinates them enough that they never quite make it back to their quest?  That character would normally be me.

However, what’s happened in my faith has released me from that path in a way I had not expected.

Christians who are aspiring to be like Jesus are working to improve and edit themselves toward His perfect standard for the rest of their lives.  Even the “best of the best” will never achieve that in this world.  However, according to the Christian doctrine, with His sacrifice we are already made perfect in Christ. We are made complete through Him and once that happens, all the pressure is effectively off. The burden is lifted; we can feel justified and adequate without having to hammer down on ourselves constantly for any reason that man’s idea of greatness throws our way.

Once you decide that you are working for God and not for man, the comparison game has fallen away. You can “be all you can be” for God and God alone.

You can know that right now, right here, you are good enough; To the degree that this idea sinks in, the feeling of freedom is overwhelming.

You are free to go forward at a pace that makes sense –  to let God shape, mold, and perfect you with his loving embrace.  You can be in step with His will instead of fighting like mad. You can find SOME place to bless others and glorify Him in the little things until they become more.

Sharing a post, encouraging a friend, praying for someone in need, telling a joke to the girl at Walgreens to make her smile.  God can take the little things and grow them into something amazing.  Just like he can take our little acts, where we are now and build them into something more; he can take us, where we are now and shape us into something we never had expected.  We can become all we are designed to be; something light years above and beyond anything we can envision today.

He uses the weak to show his strength.  He uses what seems foolish to man to show the depth of his wisdom.

I always figured by that standard I was a David hidden in a huge hunk of concrete, waiting for Michelangelo to start carving away.  When you think about it, that concrete didn’t look so hot for a long time. It looked like a lumpy, funky piece of rock.

Clearly, there is a David waiting inside all of us – perhaps there is some serious carving work to be done;  but as long as we are willing to surrender ourselves to that process and endure some pain along the way, the magnificent work of art is inevitable.

 CS. lewis said,

“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the “intolerable compliment.” Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life—the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child—he will take endless trouble—and would doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain 

Thankfully, God loves us enough to keep working, keep shaping, keep editing us as long as we allow him — into a design with a potential beyond anything that we would dare to compare ourselves to in the here and now.

By setting our bar there, instead of here, instead of discovering our joy has been robbed, we have unearthed a new and unending fountain, where our joy never ends.