Squinting, I leaned toward the screen of my iMac in the editing bay, a few hours into laying out my first issue as editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper. Space. Space. Space. The phrase echoed in my mind. How to fit in all of the stories while leaving enough white space?
Odd, isn’t it? You’re producing words, but what makes the words stand out is having the proportional amount of white space to offset it. Too many x’s and o’s and people quit reading before you can yell “Extra, extra!” Too little words? Then you don’t have a newspaper. You have at best, a hearty email.
The front page was always the hardest, as the interior pages fell together much quicker. The front page was made up of many moving pieces: the masthead, headline, all while fitting the proper stories and photos above the fold, and always worrying about white space.
Have you ever stopped to think about your soul as the front page of the newspaper?
Our brains need the space to register the information coming in, our souls need room to spread their roots and blossom, but so often we underestimate the space that takes. We cram and cram until all white space in our lives is obliterated.
What do you do when you find space in your life? Do you view it as a blank spot to be filled with another pillow, painting or project? Or do you view it as the gift it is: a breather, a pause, a rest? A place to just be?
Biblical White Space
There are lots of examples of “space” in the Bible. Even the creator of the universe didn’t create everything in one day. He worked and then rested. He gave space between projects, and then created a full rest at the end of the week. Not because God needed a personal day. He already had us in mind, and knew that we would need an example of rest, of margin, of white space in our own life.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me. Psalm 16:6-7a
If we ask him, the Lord will show us where our boundary lines are, because we have to know our boundaries in order to discover that margin or space. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s not about slacking, but about measuring our expectations against reality and seeing if they match up. It examines the load we’re carrying and asks, are we carrying this load like Jesus?
Our Worth and White Space
Earlier this year, God had me camp out in Psalm 37, focusing on the truths of “be still” and “do not fret.” As usual, I had an opportunity the next day and rest of the week to practice those truths and also per usual, the opportunities were not what I was expecting.
My husband, who rarely gets sick, came down with the flu, and our whole week was thrown to the wind. With the fractured scheduled and unexpected time at home, I found myself emotional and unsettled. God quietly whispered this was a perfect time to be still, but I was so frustrated by the lack of momentum in the week and my own lack of motivation, that I felt guilty and projected that onto God and how he must be feeling about me.
Our worth is not based on how much motivation we muster, or how productive we are, but based on the character of Christ which doesn’t ebb and flow. He was reaching out toward us while we were still sinners, and so he is not impressed nor disappointed with our productivity hacks and motivation methods. He loves us for us, and invites us into the words and white spaces of life to experience his presence.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:33-34
His kingdom. His righteousness. Close your eyes and take stock of your life: how are you treating the white space? Are you busy filling in your own kingdom with your own righteousness? Do you have margin to breathe? Or are the words, meetings, and lists crowding you out to the very edges? Are you propelled by an internal ruthless master telling you to produce, create, do and achieve until you are left breathless? To prove your worth by your own productivity?
If that sounds like you, I give you permission to stop a moment and breathe. We are the overscheduled and overworked ones; God isn’t. We need the space and the words to fully tell the story God is writing through us. Both are beautiful. Both are necessary.