Friday, March 5, 2010

This but not this

Recently I came upon a writer and artist whose deeply reflective work has moved me.  Jan Richardson writes:

The challenge of creating a piece of art lies not just in deciding what to include but also in discerning what to leave out. Every piece of art involves a process of choosing: not thisnot thisnot this. I can only find what belongs by clearing away everything that doesn’t.This is no speedy endeavor.

On an intimate scale, it’s much like the kind of discernment that we see Jesus engaged in as we follow him into the wilderness on the first Sunday of Lent...

The devil’s temptations show that he knows the words of scripture well. Jesus’ responses, however, reveal that he knows more: he understands the heart of the sacred texts. And here in the wilderness, the one who has steeped himself in those texts begins to understand how the ancient words of God are to take flesh in him as the living and incarnate Word of God. Once, twice, and yet a third time: with every temptation, Jesus responds to the devil: not thisnot thisnot this. With each response he names what does not belong to him; with each answer he gains clarity about what he needs to empty himself of in order to be who he has come here to be.

When he emerges from this wild space, when he has completed this liminal time of fasting and praying and wrestling and waiting, Jesus has a clarity that could not have come otherwise. It has taken a long time, this emptying, this clearing out, this letting go of what doesn’t belong in order to find what does. But in taking the time, in venturing into that place, Jesus has found what he needs. As he enters his public ministry, he possesses a picture that is more complete, more whole. From discerning not this, not this, not this, he can now say, this.
(read the rest of Jan's thoughts and see her inspired art at The Painted Prayerbook).

I found myself thinking, "Yes...exactly". The choices that we don't choose ...and sometimes unchoose...are as important as the ones we do choose. Don't we all long for the certainty of "this" over the "not this"? And I wonder if the "this" is clarified even more (after the wilderness) as it is confirmed by our fellow waiters and wrestlers. To know your "this" and to encourage others in finding theirs....sounds lovely to me.

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