Creativity / Ideas / Thinking / August 23, 2012

The White Space of Life

People tend to see what is there. That’s fairly obvious, but I mean more than simply that we “see.” Rather, we navigate life and make decisions based on what is present – physical objects, relationships, emotions. But equally important are all those things that are not present. 

We can recognize this reality in books. So much of writing is what is not said. We intuitively recognize this when we see the work of someone over-writing, over-describing. It can only be “over” if it was better left unsaid. The best writers, especially of stories, speak just as loudly through their silences and blanks as through their descriptions and dialogue. They provide such a contrast between their words and their silences that both the filled and the empty spaces are poignant.


In the visual arts, white space is an asset. It draws the eye to the desired features of a work. Without it a work can quickly become busy, cluttered, a confusing cacophony of images.

In his book, A Praying Life , Paul Miller writes of how so often in life we focus on what it missing. We worry, we fret, and we overlook what is there because we are captivated by what’s not. We think of those things we don’t have as “missing” and can’t imagine a happy life without them.
In essence, we fixate on the white spaces in life. But isn’t white space there to create a contrast? Isn’t it supposed to draw the eye to the feature, the present image? We think absence of a desired item or relationship as a detriment to life, but what if the Great Artist and Author of our lives created absence as white space to draw our eye to those features of the work, the story, that He wants emphasized?

Sometimes white space is a portion of the work that has yet to be filled out. Sometimes it will remain blank for the duration. One thing we can be certain of is that God isn’t mistaking one for the other. We make that mistake, but he is creating a perfect work.

If we were to view life as a story, as a work of art that God is creating we would be less inclined to fill the white spaces with our crap and effort. This is especially difficult since each day holds tasks, responsibilities, fears, worries. We live a check-list life. But remember, God didn’t reveal himself to us as a checklist. He revealed himself in a narrative. We live in a narrative, a story.

So, when we find ourselves in those voids, do not think of them as empty absences of good but rather intentional white spaces that our artist God designed. It is all part of the work. And the work will be perfect.



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