Are you engaged?

As we’ve wrestled with Greg McKeown’s book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, we’re confronted with this question, “what is my highest point of contribution?” And we are faced with this reality of eliminating from our lives those things which are trivial and non-essential.  It’s freeing and yet all-consuming at the same time.  It keeps bringing us back to this idea of how we go about fully engaging certain things.  If you’re like most people, you might not get past this beginning line in your news feed as you scroll through. We struggle with engagement, marriage aside, we struggle to fully engage almost anything that has weight and deep meaning.

When I wrestle with this question I find myself having to define what I will be engaged in. Maybe more pointedly, what I will marry myself to. So some of this scrolling through life is necessary because we’re looking for things that interest us enough to continue reading, doing, pursuing. We can’t read, do, pursue everything so we must filter what we allow to come across our mental “feed” and quickly choose… keep reading or keep scrolling.

So ultimately we have to ask, what will I engage? When we do this, it naturally will cause us to be less and less interested in certain things. Yet with other things, we will allow them to wrap our attention and become consumed with them. Cue the current tack of the news media of our day – to use alarm and fear to cause us to pay attention. Fear is a very powerful motivator, but perfect love casts out fear. So I would encourage you to keep reading, more importantly find something truly worth loving. This then is the craft of writing: allowing the writer’s thoughts to be organized by design and not by default so that the reader is intrigued to continue following your line of love because it interests them too.

Sight plays a critical role in capturing our attention, and the fully engaged person wants to go beyond just their head to their heart and hands as well. It’s a natural progression of engagement. In this sense, it is the beckoning call of the Craftsman, bringing to our attention that which He created us for. I will hear, see, smell, touch, or perceive something that causes me to stop for a moment and make a decision. Often times these moments are so quick and fleeting that we never even recognize that they have happened. This is because of what Peter Korn calls our “mental map”. It has been cognitively developing since we were inside the womb. It is our body’s ability to discern if we should give our attention to what we have just sensed, and we craft our mental map everyday.

I pause here to reference a couple of verses from the Bible that have informed my mental map regarding craftsmanship…

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 1Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 

The prophet Jeremiah speaking to his fellow people in captivity [Jeremiah 29:11, 12]

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O’ God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

David in the 139 Psalm

Even now if you’re like me you will have quickly scanned over these verses, because we’ve conditioned our mental map to deem things from the Bible as irrelevant to our immediate lives. But consider that the one who created you, the one who had you on his workbench and with great thought and intention, He was purposely crafting a work of art. And loving that work of art so much he inspired other men to write out His explicit thoughts which before had been tacit and unknown to us. The Master Craftsman knows that when his creation wakes up to these powerful realities the works of God’s hand will be revealed and all will marvel at the glory of the things his hand has made.

In our world today many more are waking up to the beauty of this craftsmanship. There is this idyllic postcard in our mind’s eye that provides this mental image of what any craftsman might look like, what they do, and that the results of their creations will be fascinating, truly a thing to behold. What the craftsman creates causes one to stop and reflect and marvel at the beauty that has been created. Color, shape, size, design and so many other things go into catching our attention and causing us to be engaged. Simply go to a craft show and you’ll be raptured into another world of creativity and you find yourself almost hypnotized by all the creativity around you.

We see this in the mediums of food, wood, glass, clay, fiber, and others. They have the innate ability within them to be shaped into a work of art – functionally useful and pleasing to the eye, practically helpful and reassuring to the hand, delightfully inspiring and good for the heart. It’s the craftsman’s call or vocation to see these qualities and purposes before they are ever even a reality. As they create the become reality. And this speaks to the growing infatuation of watching craftsmen at work. We see this coming alive in so many ways through videos of craftsmen making things, magazines describing how artists create their works, etc. Dare I mention shows like Bob Ross, This Old House, or the Essential Craftsman.

Even as I write this post, Grammarly is here with me crafting my sentences and words, helping me to whittle away at my prose so that it’s more pleasing to the eye and the mind. For the craftsman, they must ask themselves what has engaged them and stay true to that. It will cause them to become completely disinterested in everything else around them, more pointedly those things within their workshop which continue to keep them from their work will require that they design a better workshop.

Within their workshop, their mental map will force them to eliminate everything that is a distraction and design everything to cause clarity and purpose in their craft. They will be driven to design with effectiveness and efficiency in mind. Because when they become inspired, their head, heart, and hands will spring to life. Tools will be carefully selected and kept true to their intention. Space will be thoughtfully constructed and laid out. Their medium will be rigorously selected and properly stored in such a way that it is easily located when needed.

So where are you? What do you find yourself becoming more and more engaged in? Are you waking up to what the Master Craftsman designed you to be and do? I pray that your attention will become wrapped with something beautiful and that your life’s work will come into bold clarity, and that the Lord will give you the grace to pursue it with a passion so that the world might see the glory of God designed in you.

His servant for you blessing,

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