An Empty Page

An Empty Page

I am about to do a new thing;
   now it springs forth; do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert.
The wild animals will honor me,
   the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
   rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
   the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.

Isaiah 43:19-21 (NRSVUE)

For the past two weeks, my daughter Jane has been home from Chicago. Whenever she is home, we tend to be more creative at my house than normal. Whether it is cooking or baking new things in the kitchen, making chocolates, painting, sculpting, and drawing things at the dining room table, or working together to complete a puzzle or play a board game, Jane keeps us busy, in a good way.

Well, Jane got home a whole week before Christmas this year and she used the week before Christmas to make all of her Christmas gifts. My son, Leo, did the same, though he used most of the month before Christmas to complete his. As we watched television in the evening, Jane would be knitting, crocheting, or working on a needlepoint project. We never knew exactly what she was working on, and because it was Christmas, we were not allowed to ask. My son Leo spent a lot of time in the garage building things or in the basement staining or painting his projects.

Now you might think that all this creative work would have made them tired, but on the contrary, it only fed their creativity. When they weren’t working on their Christmas gifts, doing a puzzle, or playing a board game. They were encouraging us all to build something out of modeling clay, paint on canvas or watercolor paper, play music in our family band or to create a mosaic out of the bits and pieces of left-over Christmas wrapping paper and ribbons.

When I dropped Jane off at the airport yesterday morning, on the one hand I was sad to see her go, but on the other hand, I knew that I would have a little more time to get back to my normal activities. When I got back from the airport I sat at my desk to put today’s service together. Somehow it seemed to come together a little easier than usual. I ran some laundry and cleaned up the kitchen and as I did, I thought of a new idea to write about. So, I sat down at the computer and opened a brand-new document. The blank page in front of me felt exciting and new! A free space to pour out my imagination and ideas. Then I spent an hour or two putting my thoughts down on the computer. What began as an empty page soon became pages and pages of thoughts, dreams, inspirations, and ideas.

By the end of the day, I noticed that I had accomplished quite a bit, and I still had the energy to do more! So, I pulled out my watercolor paints and paper and sat down at the table. As I stared at the empty sheet of paper, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. Where would I start? What would I paint? For two weeks, I had been creating all kinds of things, and I never worried about what they would look like. But now, suddenly, I was frozen in my tracks. I didn’t know what to do. What if my choice of colors was wrong? What if I got halfway through the painting and it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to? What if I couldn’t even figure out where to start? I suddenly realized how daunting a blank sheet of paper could be. Then I heard the words of today’s scripture reading in the back of my head.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

I started laughing to myself as I covered my paintbrush with blue and spread it across the paper. Then I added a little green, and a little white as I painted a river of water rushing across the page. I heard the words again.

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

As I listened and laughed to myself, I realized that the scripture didn’t say, “I am about to do a perfect thing. It will be exactly right, and everyone will love it.” No! I thought to myself that I simply needed to open my heart and allow myself to experience and create something new, something exciting, something creative, and to be honest, I didn’t need to know exactly how it was going to turn out. I just needed to be open to its possibilities.

Friends, tomorrow we start a brand-new calendar year. Yes, it’s just another day, but it is also a day filled with possibility and wonder. It’s a day to open our eyes and not be afraid of the blank page or the things we don’t know. But on the contrary, it’s our chance to begin again, to start fresh and new, to paint and write and create or to pray and ponder and step out with kindness and grace.

Friends, as the angel told Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and as I remind you in the benediction every single week, DO NOT BE AFRAID! Because tomorrow can be just like yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that, and the day before that or it can be exciting, refreshing, and new. Because, if you really want to know the truth, it’s not a phenomenon that happens only on New Year. Folks, every single day, the world is a blank slate or an empty page, and we are the artists. We can allow the empty page to overwhelm us. We can worry that we won’t be good enough or that we won’t know what to paint, what to say, or what to do. We can stay in the comfort of what we have always done before, or we can step out into this new year and into each new day to create and inspire ourselves and others in our own unique and special ways. But if we’re going to do that, we need to remember that today’s scripture reading does not say, “I am about to do a perfect thing. That will be exactly right, and everyone will love it.” NO! It says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you step into this new year, don’t stress yourself out trying to be perfect with new year’s resolutions and unreachable goals, but instead, have the courage to be yourself, to do a new thing, and to have fun doing it. Because when you do, you just might find that that is how the holy spirit works through you!

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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