Anthony Spencer – Ahwatukee Producer
I love visiting art museums and staring in awe at incredible masterpieces made with basic, everyday items, like building blocks or acrylic paints. Have you ever met someone who could effortlessly take parts of one thing and create something brand new? When I see one of these beautiful works of art, I shamelessly gawk and think to myself, “Wow, how did they do that? How did the artist know to take those pieces, combine them in that specific way, and create something so beautiful?” After plenty of staring with my mouth open, I think I’ve figured out the secret! I have found that what separates good art from great art is negative space.
If you aren’t quite sure what I mean, allow me to elaborate…
Negative space is the contrast between the black and white in a picture. It’s the difference between the highs and the lows, the do’s and the don’ts, the absent and the filled in space. Negative space is incredible because it creates beautiful works of art by adding definition, depth, and perspective.
I encourage you to look at a drawing right now. If you don’t have anything nearby, then look at the picture at the top of this blog post for all that it is. Don’t just look what’s on the page, look deeper. Look for the negative space, the part left open between all the shading, where there is no drawing. If you’re looking at a drawing like the one above, pay close attention to the areas around the eyes. Quite often these are the areas where depth and perspective is created. Any good artist knows that sometimes they should leave things alone and allow the “lack of” to do the talking.
But let’s make this personal. God calls us to be faithful in every season we are in and to live within some negative space, where things are left uncertain, unclear, or absent. This is hard, isn’t it? What do you wish was filled in a little bit more, made more clear, less open? God will intentionally place us in unclear seasons to give us an opportunity to grow and to create a masterpiece. This is what happened to the exiles of Jerusalem.
To give you some background, King Nebuchadnezzar deported the influential people of Jerusalem and placed them in Babylon, away from home. Jeremiah, a prophet of God, wrote a letter to the exiles after their entire lives had been ripped from their hands. Can you imagine the chaos? The open-endedness of their struggle? Living among a people and a culture that was foreign.
If I can be honest, when something is forcefully taken from me, my first reaction is to fight back and restore things for my comfort. But God says something interesting despite the exiles’ turmoil:
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’” Jeremiah 29:4-7
I can only assume that this wasn’t the easiest thing for the exiles to accept. But watch what God says next…
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11
Did you see that? God is helping the exiles witness the masterpiece. He gave them encouragement and wanted them to be reassured that they were not forgotten. He wanted them to understand that the negative space that they were enduring was just for a season, and that He was still in the process of making a beautiful piece of art. The dark, the light, the emptiness, and the fullness are all part of the masterpiece.
What does this look like for you? Are you struggling with the negative space in your life? The part that you do not see or understand? Spend a moment right now and bring that worry to God. I can tell you from my own experience, He is with you, and you are not forgotten. Stop and pray right now. Re-read and meditate on the encouragement He left to His people in Jeremiah 29:11. With anticipation, step into each day determined to create a masterpiece!