If I see too many “buts” in a story by one of my students I circle them and ask for a rewrite. But I put my pen away when it comes to the “buts” in my life’s story…many times those interruptions or contrary circumstances have changed the course of my life.
I would have bought the other house but for a reluctant seller. I love the one I’m in.
I would have run for re-election but for a nagging voice telling me I’d had enough. Now I’m following a different call.
You fill in your blank: “I would have _________________ but for ________________. Now I’m ________________”
There is a big BUT in the Bible that not only changed the course of a life, but of history. Joseph discovered his betrothed was pregnant. He wanted to “do right” by Mary, so he considered privately divorcing her. His plan was an extraordinary act of kindness, because by rights he could have made Mary into a public spectacle.
BUT, and a big “but,” an angel showed up to change his plans. God had another idea. Joseph was sensitive enough to listen, abandon his plans and follow God’s.
How often have you had a “BUT” in your story? Does that “but” represent an act of God in your life? Was God trying to speak to you through a series of “buts?”
I’ve needed every one of the many “buts” in my story. I bet you have too. No rewrites at all. God’s “buts” are the rewrite. Everything after is a revision, a much better revision than I could ever achieve on my own.
An important gift we writers can give another person is renewed confidence in their ability to tell their stories. Once I collaborated with a South African painter friend to teach the arts in a mental health program. Clari van Niekerk was showing adult students how to paint scenes and objects from their lives and I was to help them write poetry about their work.
I tried to chat them up while admiring their paintings, but soon realized my task would be difficult. The students could visualize with a paint brush, but “seeing” in language and getting it on paper was a whole “nother” thing.
I sat down with one lady, and to buy time, made small talk. Then I had a flash. “Lucy, (not her name), talk to me about your painting, I’ll write down what you say, and we’ll get a poem.” Each painter told me the story of their work and I shaped their words into a poem, keeping the freshness of our conversation while adding line breaks to emphasize certain ideas. The poems were mounted beside the paintings in a gallery and read to an appreciative audience.
Jesus calls us to a life of giving. Maybe sometimes our call as artists and writers is to give someone the gift of trust in their own artistic abilities and make a way for their expression. Clari helped each student visualize their life story through painting. Then a writer helped them articulate their internal musings for a new audience in a new way. I got jazzed creating life stories with these artists and finding internal resources (both theirs and mine) that had been buried or forgotten. What have you discovered about giving through writing and the arts?