A couple decades ago I had turned my creative energies toward designing and manufacturing fancy denim clothing for ladies. After cutting out the patterns and assembling the items I created interest on them by distressing the fabric with acid, fraying and fringing, and adding studs, etc. It was a messy process that involved a lot of bleach, scissors, hot water, and holes. The end results were very interesting, and they sold well.
One day I was cutting out the pattern for one of these projects and simultaneously mulling over some grievous situation that had come to my attention. I complained to the Lord that I knew the evil I was bemoaning was not His will. He had created a perfect world that had gotten messed up because man had sinned and eventually He would judge all things and in righteousness everything would be set right, “but really, God. . . really? Couldn’t you have come up with a plan that didn’t involve quite so much suffering?” I have these conversations often with God, and every now and then He actually shows up and participates. Such was the case that day. I’m sure it was Him, because it contained such alien thoughts it could not have been from my own mind.
“Your problem is that you see me as a God whose creative act took place in the first chapters of Genesis, but the truth is that this IS the creative act. You are living in the middle of the creative process and the product being created is still in the future.”
Silence. . . while I tried to wrap my mind around the ramifications of such an idea. And then, seeming to change the subject, He asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m cutting out a pattern for a jacket,” I answered.
“I see. And why are you throwing away the fabric that you’ve cut off?”
“It didn’t fit into my plan for the jacket.”
“EXACTLY! Now you’ve got it,” and with that He was gone leaving me with more to puzzle over than ever.
As I thought about it, however, I fantasized how it would feel to be the fabric. The fabric would have no idea what my plan was. It didn’t envision the beautiful garment that it would become, and the joy it would bring to someone, and the fun events that it would be a part of. If the fabric had any self-awareness it would only know that it was suffering greatly. Between the scissors and the acid and the hot water, it would only know the anguish it was going through, and that presupposed that it was the fabric that was selected. Much of the fabric had been discarded. In a way, the discarded fabric had an easier time of it. It didn’t go through any more of the painful creative process, but its future was destined to be a landfill. No glorious future awaited it.
What if the fabric had been able to choose whether to be part of the jacket or not? If that could have happened, a pretty good parable begins to take shape. The fabric that chose NOT to be part of the creative plan wasn’t punished for its choice. It was simply discarded. The fabric that DID choose to be part of the creative plan actually experienced more personal suffering while it was being transformed into something glorious.
May the Lord give us the grace to imagine the product that He is creating, rejoice that we are going to be part of it, and have the strength to bear our own anguish as necessary aspects of that creative process.
Next week I want to share a “baker’s parable” that I wrote to try to convey these same concepts.