The Red Line

My husband is on vacation this week, although he is working hard as I write. We are in the midst of a massive backyard renovation. I say we, but it's really he, with the occasional help of a few friends. It's going to be great when it's done, but the process is going a little long for the both of us. It was going so long that he finally broke down to take precious vacation time he hoped to spend enjoying the finished yard to get it done. It certainly doesn't feel like he is vacating.

I feel like he is on vacation, not we, because I work from home. While I have a home office, I also have a habit of working wherever appeals to me at the moment; in the back yard on a day with a breeze, in my gray chair in my living room, or on my bed. I haven't vacated my work space, so I don't feel different when I wake up in the morning. I also work without a real schedule, my tasks come to me in the form of an email, sporadically and totally dependent when someone else does their part. For a schedule loving woman this is a form of torture, a constant irritant to my peace of mind and love of order. It is also a great tool the Lord uses to remind me of a master plan and purpose. I want to write the script, but He has editorial control. This is hard, and this is good.

When a writer hands over a manuscript to an editor, they usually feel their best effort has just left their possession and have a sense of optimism that it will be well received. If you had a hard time with the way your English teacher graded your assignments in school, keep your journal to yourself and turn off the comment section of your blog. Someone is going to have something to say about your ideas, your style, your grammar and maybe even your theology. We give our best effort, and hope for the best response. All of us, however, could benefit from the expertise of an editor.

I'm working on some book projects, not my own but that of another author. I make changes in an edit mode that shows the changes in red, and the author has the ability to accept the change or deny it in order to permanently change the document. This is conflict waiting to happen. They have sent me what they are satisfied with and feel best articulates their thoughts. I am often telling them otherwise as I make changes to the manuscript. So far, so good, and people are still speaking to me. Both of us have the same objective-the best book possible. When God has editorial control over the outcome of your plans, your actions, and your time, the value of what you do changes significantly as long as you accept the red lines in your manuscript.

While I'm limited in my editorial skills, God is not. If I truly believe that He knows what is best for me in order to produce the best from me, I would accept the red line edits gladly, yes? Mmm...well, maybe. Sometimes. Not without an argument. Part of the time. Part of the edit. Sometimes. Sigh. In reality, I think I've done my best and I know where I'm going and what I expect from it. Anything contrary to that is conflict, but when I refuse to step back and consider how the change might help, I keep myself from the benefit of one who knows what is truly good.

Years ago, I told this story at a retreat. My daughter and I, pre-grandchild, used to have what we called Fun Days. Fun Day was usually a trip to Temecula Old Town, lunch at Rosa's and a visit to our favorite store, The Farmers Wife. It takes us three trips through the small store before we are done: once to inspect everything, once to pick out the things we want, and once to put back all the stuff our husbands wouldn't be happy to see on the credit card. Almost every sign in my house has come from this store, and not a few other things.

One trip, during a very trying season of life, I came across a sign in the store that made me roll my eyes and snort derisively out loud. It was a lovely sign, with that vintage look and proverbial bird that is on everything right now, but what it said negated its attractiveness even though it matched my house. What did it say?

You see, everything in my life was changing and I wasn't thinking it was very good. The last thing I needed was a stupid sign to try to convince me otherwise.

The rest of the next two trips through the store I kept up a running argument with an immovable, unrelenting editor, who finally, as you can see, convinced me that I did, indeed, need a sign to remind me that change is good. Especially God ordained change.  I bought the sign, it hangs in my bathroom to this day so I can be reminded that when God allows or brings change, it is good. It may not feel good, but in the end, because He is good, the change is good.

This is not the vacation I had planned. This is not even the morning I had planned. But, as I had a rambling conversation with my husband and dwelt in Philippians 3 this morning, some edits were suggested. Just a moment to consider them instead of a knee jerk reaction brought change, and change was good. Isn't everything Jesus ever did for the purpose of change? When I think of that, I think of the disciples in John 6 saying "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." While you may not write, you do have a manuscript of your life, and the question is, do you have an editor? Or, are you satisfied to be your own editor, sure your best thoughts, passions, efforts are good enough?

Harper Lee, who wrote the critically acclaimed classic To Kill a Mockingbird, had a new book come out this week to mixed reviews. As the original source for Mockingbird, it was the book her publisher rejected, and it was an editor who suggested a different direction for the project. Now, the reviews testify to the wisdom of the original editor, and say this largely untouched manuscript could have benefited from more editing. For all her gifting, her best thought and effort needed someone else to make them better. How much more do we need the editor who has the words of eternal life to take who we are and what we think, say and do and change it into what He knows is best?

Change is good.


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