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The Jewelry Box
Life: The Edited Version
. . . He re-made it ...- Jeremiah 18:4
I’d like to be a great writer one day. It is one of my goals – an aspiration wooing me toward excellence. But, for now, I am in desperate need of an editor.
He takes the writing that I’ve done – the chapters I’ve carefully crafted - and scans it closely. His job is not only to erase unintentional errors but also to look for unnecessary words and phrases to delete. He cuts, shaves, dices and carves until he leaves behind only that which will clearly communicate the intended message. The editor is the writer’s friend and foe, partner and nemesis, comrade and enemy. The relationship is one filled with sweet mountains and bitter valleys as the two work together to accomplish the desired end.
This unpredictable rapport I know all too well.
The initial stage of my writing projects include a meeting with the editor; it’s the “honeymoon phase”. I’m all starry eyed in the very beginning and choose then and there to entrust him with the finished product of my publication. Upon reviewing other resources that he has helped to make successful, I agree that his judgment in the editorial process is trustworthy. We enter amicably into a partnership – I write then he edits until the final product isn’t just acceptable but, hopefully, exceptional.
I spend weeks and months researching then putting pen to paper. I have done my best to record truths that will touch the reader’s heart and bring the Biblical text to life. I have painstakingly strung words together in a way that I hope will be clever enough to capture the attention of all who will ever turn those pages. Not one word has been casually placed or nonchalantly offered. Each phrase has a cadence, a tempo, that does a dance with the next until the whole thing is moving to a beautifully orchestrated beat.
So, the final manuscript is sent, I breathe a sigh of relief and wait in excited anticipation. I can’t wait to hear my editor’s response. I anticipate that he will be just as pleased as I am as he looks at the prose I have constructed. I envision a nod of approval as he celebrates my writing ability. He’ll be so pleased to partner with a writer like me. . . who saves him so much work.
These are my dreams.
Not to be confused with reality.
In reality, the editor sees my emailed manuscript and this man - once my friend - always says three words that leave me careening down from the mountaintop of the honeymoon afterglow.
It’s too long.
So, much to my dismay, he begins the work of formatting the text into a usable format by finding words – my carefully selected, hand-picked words - to cut until the book reaches a more suitable length. When he returns the edited version back to me, I am appalled. I can’t believe that he has tossed so much of it away. To me, everything was important. In fact, most of what He has done away with I considered the most important. A quick glance over each page brings renewed disgust as I grasp the full extent of the damage. The masterpiece that I have composed has been destroyed. All of the good stuff has been taken out.
A phone call to his office crescendos into a waterfall of my quick and abrupt opinions about his efforts. Calmly he listens and then explains with the authority that can only come from one who has mastered his job: If the manuscript is too full and long it will lose the reader’s attention and thus its usefulness. Cutting it down will add to its value. Trust me. I know what I’m doing.
Trust him? I don’t even like him anymore.
Hesitantly, I submit.
The Divine Editor.
He takes the work of “life” we have written and scans it closely. His job is not only to look for the errors that He wants to blot out with the eraser of grace but also to find unnecessary additions and get rid of them. He knows that the edited version of life is the one that will be most useful. And so, He cuts, shaves, dices and carves until he leaves behind only that which will clearly communicate the message that He purposed for this life-book to relay.
We’ve spent weeks, months and years determining how our lives will look – how our chapters will read. The design that we have constructed embraces desires and plans that we are certain will ensure happiness. We have written our own narratives complete with the storybook endings the best movies are made of. We’ve included details on education, family, friends, finances and ministry involvement. Then we have proudly and assuredly sent the final manuscript to the Editor; not really seeking His advice . . . just his approval.
We’re sure He’ll grant us that. I mean, why wouldn’t he?
Our plan is perfect.
We’ve met Him before and have agreed that He is trustworthy. We’ve seen His work on other life-projects and have been pleased with the results. We expect that He will see our story, sit back in his editorial seat, nod in approval and send back our manuscript with little more than one or two corrections.
That’s the honeymoon.
Yet the edited manuscript – the real life we’ve been called to live - returns to us and we stand in shock, glaring at the mess that has been made. From start to finish it looks nothing like what we planned.
For starters, the title has been changed. He calls it:
Life: The Edited Version.
The chapter we wrote on relationships now suggests the cutting away of many associations that we thought were necessary to our fulfillment. The section that was filled with a busy, crammed schedule of ministry activity has been adjusted to include much more time devoted to solitude, stillness and silence; away from the crowd. The plans for finances and family have been revamped. His rewritten text shows that our loved ones can be comfortable with much less extravagance then we ever anticipated. In fact, most of the themes of our chapters have been completely changed. His priorities have now been written in. On and on we find inconsistencies with what we had in mind for the story of our lives. We argue in heated debate and rebellion against the work of the Expert.
But then – then - calmly and patiently, we hear the voice of One having authority say: If the manuscript is too full, it will lose its usefulness. You cannot do a thousand things well. Trust Me. I know what I’m doing.
He cuts. We frown.
He deletes. We squirm.
He molds. We object.
Finally . . .hesitantly . . . we trust and submit.
The book of our lives is printed, bound and duplicated for others to read.
We are amazed at the results.
We never knew that less . . .could really amount to so much more.
Priscilla Shirer, Going Beyond Ministries