One of my hobbies is acrylic painting. I love to spend several hours, listening to music and watching a blank canvas transform into a glorious landscape. Grant it, it never looks quite as I pictured in my mind when I’m done, nor am I always completely satisfied with it, for that reason I do appreciate an art critic before I wash my brushes. Sometimes I’ve been staring at the canvas for so long it’s hard to step back and get a fresh perspective. If I don’t get that critique I often start nitpicking the painting the next day.
A common exclamation when I’d show a finished or almost finished piece to a family member or friend is “Wow, if you look at it from back here it looks even better!” As they back farther and farther away from the painting. As you step away from anything, the little details blur, the closer you are, the more it looks like what it is; imperfect blobs and swirls of paint applied to a canvas. Step back, and it looks like a landscape, and the farther away you stand, the better those details look. Both parts are true, the details and the whole are each a reality, but it’s up to us which we choose to focus on.
Often, I get so caught up in the details – in the business of making it perfect – that I forget to take a step back and look at how far it’s come. That’s true of my painting habits, and still more true when I look at different areas in my life. I’ll get caught up in the details of this blog, get all worked up about missing a deadline, or anxious about what impact a post may or may not have… that I forget to go and scroll through all the posts I’ve written. I forget all the conversations these posts have sparked, I forget how much I love sharing my story and how thankful I am for all the ways God has used this blog for others and for me.
“Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be” – Rick Warren
I notice this tendency to get tunnel vision and not stop to smell the roses. Those imperfect parts to our story, the ripples and chaos – like a painting – from a distance, with time and perspective, turns into a beautiful masterpiece. I have a lot of big goals, and I get really caught up in those. What is all that progress worth though, if you don’t stop to stand in wonder at how it all has worked out? Isn’t it amazing how the twists and turns of life have lead you to this moment? Who would have thought?
I missed a deadline last week for my Etsy shop because I was too sick to finish it. Grant it, the deadline I missed was one I set for myself, but I take those very seriously. Like any decent boss, I realized I needed to let myself call in sick. Of course I’ll have to set a new deadline. The work will get done, I’ll just have to adjust. There’s been a decent amount of rippling in my routine since starting the waitress job, and it frustrates me that I can’t work on this blog or Etsy shop all the time I’d like. I know that slowly and surely I’m making progress. The little details and intricacies are adding up, and the more time passes, the more I see it compiling.
Not only does that work add up, but all the times I don’t give myself a break, that adds up too. That adds up and manifests in ways like colds, like burn out, anxiety, panic attacks, and self doubt. The details do matter, but some of my best ideas have came to me when I took a step back and took a break. Just like taking a step back from a painting would allow me to see some new colors that could be added, other changes that needed to happen, or new energy to finish. Don’t forget to step back out of your routine sometimes, and let other people speak into your life with a fresh perspective too.