Then I looked at my finished paper. I saw words marked out, phrases circled and “pointed” by an arrow to another place in the sentence. I saw other words added, and suggestions made with question marks beside them. Whole sentences were bracketed and directions written above: “make these phrases parallel;” “needs a concrete noun;” “get rid of the intensifiers.” In fact, what I saw before me was a real rough draft, exactly how my own should have looked.
As the class continued and I learned better writing techniques, my rough drafts became messier and messier. Sometimes at the end, it took me a half hour to decipher the code of scribbled notes and write what I wanted to turn in. But inevitably, the rougher the draft, the better the finished product turned out.
I learned not to “fall in love with my own words,” as my teacher called it. I took a red pen to my own creation and marked out words like a safari guide slashing through brush with a machete. I kept a thesaurus handy to help with vocabulary choices, making nouns and verbs so concrete that few modifiers were even necessary. I not only got rid of intensifiers, I deleted delayers too, then I worked on turning 8 word clauses into 4 word phrases, concentrating the effect of the writing, rather than diluting it. Sometimes I even deleted whole paragraphs.
Before long I could write better the first time around, but still see places to improve on the read-through, smaller things that would have gotten lost in the obvious mess beforehand. Even now, when reading something I wrote years ago, I automatically go into edit mode. Even after it’s put on the blog, I notice things I wish I had changed. What I said wasn’t wrong, but I could have made it just a teensy bit better, even after the half a dozen edits I always do.
Today should be your life’s rough draft for tomorrow. Every evening you should go over your actions, your words, your attitudes and see where you need to “edit.” If you don’t see anything, you are obviously new to the idea like I was the first time I tried. My first paper sounded pretty good to me, so I didn’t see the need to change much, but if you were to find it somewhere after all these years, I bet I could hack it to pieces in ten short minutes now. That is how we need to get about our lives if we ever expect to improve as children of God and become spiritually mature. We must learn to see the changes we need to make, the faults we try to hide from others and only wind up hiding from ourselves. If I make the same mistakes every day, then my rough draft isn’t rough enough.
Let me quickly say this: God doesn’t want you constantly discouraged, thinking you are never right with Him because there is always something you could have done “better.” God wants us to know that we have eternal life, according to John (1 John 5:13), and that happens because of grace—not because you are perfect. But that is a far cry from the complacency that believes it already has things figured out, doesn’t need to learn anything new, and always sees the faults of others without ever considering that it might possibly have one or two itself.
Today, write your rough draft on the paper of time. Do the best you can. Then tonight, see what needs editing. If you write the same thing tomorrow, you are still just a beginner in this class, no matter how old you are. It’s time to get to work.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, Eph 4:15.