What I’m Thankful For: The Negative Space

In my college drawing class, way, way back in the day, one of the first things we learned about was negative space. Negative space, which you’re probably familiar with, is (according to Wikipedia) “the space around and between the subject(s) of an image.” We did several exercises where our teacher would set up a little vignette, and ask us to draw not what we could see immediately, but to draw what we couldn’t actually see, the space around the objects. And as we drew the negative space, a shape began to form of boxes, or a bicycle, or a vase of flowers. The picture below is an example from my very first drawing class; not perfect, but you get the idea. This exercise not only taught us to expand our mind to see things differently and therefore draw more accurately, but it is also a powerful tool for creativity in art and design (see some great examples here).

Negative Space

As I’ve used this method over the years when drawing or designing or painting, I have been struck with the realization that this thing, this negative space, reminds me a lot of the presence of God. When you look at me, what you don’t see all around me, is guiding every step that I take, every decision that I make, and forms the shape of who I am as a person.

When you look at me, you may see a slightly frumpy, frazzled, disorganized, sometimes grumpy, always clumsy person who doesn’t command a whole lot of attention and certainly makes lots of mistakes…sometimes even yells at her kids (gasp!). But what you don’t see is that this somewhat unlovely and sometimes unlovable creature that you’re looking at is a beautiful masterpiece that He intricately designed and created into exactly who He wanted me to be, and He loves me so much that He sent His only Son to die for me, yes, me…the frumpy one…so I can live with Him in heaven someday.

When you look at me, you may see (on a good day) someone who looks happily married with four relatively well-adjusted kids. But what you don’t see is the scared, unmarried 22 year old pregnant girl who didn’t want anything to do with the father of her baby (my husband now), never wanted kids, and seriously considered having an abortion to cover up the mistakes she made. But God worked through those mistakes to bring my husband and I together; we had that beautiful, healthy baby boy, and went on to have three more, the best things that ever happened to me. I thank God every day that He didn’t allow me to go through with my plans for my life.

You may see a church-going “good girl.” But what you don’t see is that this “good girl” struggled with the worst attitude possible about church and God most of her life, and if it wasn’t for that same husband who took a stand and pressed the issue of church, could have very easily just walked away. But he kept me in church, and through hearing for myself and learning for myself, stopped looking at God as a Punisher to whom I could never measure up, and started to develop a very real, loving relationship with Him that has helped me in every area of my life.

You may see a creative (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking), but He is the One who gives me any good idea or talent that I am able to use.

And this presence, which I am so thankful for and which I can see so clearly as I look back through every circumstance and every mistake, gives me complete peace. It’s not just something that I believe because it’s what I’ve been taught all of my life, although I have. Just being taught something isn’t powerful enough to change a life. It’s something that I feel in my heart, and if I didn’t have this peace, I would have stopped believing in God long ago. It’s a peace that I don’t have to do anything for…I don’t have to pray more or work harder for it; it’s a finished work that Jesus already gave His life for. It’s a peace that, like He promised in Romans 8:28, He is working everything out for my good. Even if that means I lose everything tomorrow, I know He’ll give me the strength to get through it, and give me the peace to trust that He is working out His will in my life. It’s a peace that I will see my loved ones who have gone on before me again someday. It’s not something I can describe, and I know it doesn’t make sense looking at it from the outside, because it is a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). And it’s not something that makes me better than anyone else, because I’m {painfully obviously} not. I’m just an imperfect nobody who still does things wrong, but He forgives me when I do and gives me the desire and strength to do better the next time. It’s not something that is only for a select few “chosen ones.” It’s for anyone and everyone…no requirements, no prerequisites, no strings attached.

So, the next time you see a picture like the one above, or a beautiful silhouette, or notice the sun shining between the branches of a tree, or see a cleverly designed logo using negative space effectively, I pray that you will be reminded of the presence of God in your life, and I pray that you can look back at your life, and see the ways that God has led and directed in your own life. I might not be able to see it when I look at you, but it can be what forms something beautiful in your life as well.

If you would like to know more about this peace I’m describing, please, please send me a message…I’d love to talk to you. Or you can even read more about it from my church here.





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