We Need Whitespace to Create

File_000-2The responsibilities keep piling on. The calendar gets filled up with more events. We’re moving from one thing to another with barely a moment to breathe. I run the family around from home to church, on errands, on playdates, to Target and back. Everything is always rushed. My temper is short, and my patience is never in stock. Everyone peeves me. I’m not myself anymore. I become only the things I do—the roles I play—and it’s suffocating me.

Writing is the first thing to go when I get busy. It’s hard to justify creative work when there’s laundry to be done, when the kids need attention, when someone at church has to be ministered to. “It’s just a hobby,” I tell myself. “It’s not important,” or “It’s not as important as . . . ” The lies start to pour in and make more sense than all the true things I’ve felt in my gut about my gift with words.

You’re not a writer. Don’t kid yourself. You’re wasting time. There are more important things you’re already committed to right now.

The lies take charge and fool me into thinking they have my best in mind.

Don’t worry. You have other skills you’re good at. You’re a good mentor. You’re great at hospitality- just stick with those. No need to venture out, no need to be something you’re not.

I try to protest, but they shush me. Without realizing it, they’ve backed me into a corner. But I don’t question them anymore. I stay there obediently as if I belong there.

I do as I’m told. I keep my schedule packed. I have people over for dinner every night that’s free. I stay well-connected on social media so I don’t miss anything. I pour into becoming a better mom, pastor, wife, friend. I get fooled into thinking I’m being productive and then reward myself by catching up on my TV shows and binge watching new ones. I don’t let my mind have any extra space so I won’t remember, so I won’t hear the sweet voice calling me back to Himself. To myself. To writing.

My life becomes overloaded, and so does my soul. I lose peace. I start to people please again and strive for the unrealistic goal of perfection in all the roles I play. I feel as though I’m stuck in a glass box. The air is stale. I can’t breathe. I need to get out. I need to break free. My soul isn’t well, and it needs the space to be whole again.

It needs whitespace. Whitespace—void of noise, people, striving, shoulds and shouldn’ts, lies. Whitespace—where I can breathe, where I can come back to my true identity, where I can just be.

I used to look forward to vacations or trips home as my only “Get Out of the Glass Box Free” card. They gave me a break from the routine I felt stuck in, but over time I realized those breaks didn’t always free me. Sometimes they added more to the suffocation I felt in my soul than relieving it.

So I’m trying something else these days. My counselor tells me I need to be able to find whitespace wherever I am, in whatever circumstance I feel stuck in. I need to have a realistic escape plan ready so I won’t explode or implode and so my soul won’t asphyxiate.

My favorite place to find it is in nature. When I feel confined by the monotony of our suburban desert life, I long for wide, open space. Like an endless field of luscious green or the infinite expanse of the sky. My eyes ache for color—shades of green and yellow, deep purples and blues. My ears yearn to hear the rustle of leaves dancing in the breeze or the roar and calm of ocean waves. Nature woos me into quiet worship. It reminds me of who I am and whose I am.

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me (Psalm 18:19).

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul (Psalm 23:2-3).

But whitespace can be found anywhere—even when time or circumstances don’t allow us to get away into nature. We can find it in a walk around the neighborhood. In the pages of our journals. In a deliberate breath. In a quiet room. In prayer. In writing. In a paintbrush. In closing our eyes and seeing it in our imaginations.

Whitespace isn’t an illusion we can’t take hold of. It’s a necessary part of living, and one that we need to go after. It’s what reconnects us to our God, our Creator, and Father, and as we let Him sing over us, our souls come alive again. It’s in that place of peaceful rest we find room to breathe, to be, and to create again.

Grace P. Cho
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