A few weeks ago, my sister texted me an intriguing photo. In the picture, the remnants of violin pieces lay burning in a fire. She explained that her husband had been trying for quite some time to build a violin, and some of the pieces, due to errors, had to be scrapped and thrown away. Much time had been spent on each of those pieces, and they were made with valuable wood. Sadly, they were flawed and therefore unusable for their intended purpose. Ultimately, they ended up on the burn pile.
So much symbolism can be found here. Those burning pieces of wood are a beautiful illustration for something that happens to each of us in our life stories. We each end up dedicating time, energy, and passion to projects that won’t come to fruition. Or at least, some of the earliest versions of our work don’t come to fruition.
This begs me to ask the question: does this mean that our time, energy, emotions, or passions were wasted? If there was no final and ultimate success then were these endeavors failures?
Over the years of interviewing authors on my podcast, I remember a few who, in sharing their story, told of the many manuscripts they wrote that remained unpublished. They shared about the many novels they poured time and words into which were ultimately passed over or rejected by publishing companies. Still, in writing those novels, which may never be read by the public, they honed their writing and story-telling skills.
I think of the many computer games my husband made as a child, teenager, and young adult, which were just building blocks to the amazing game designer he is now. Were those hours and games, which were never sold, a waste of his life? What of the many hours of practice, sweat, and tears it takes for an athlete or musician to become adept at their craft? Hours that no one sees. Hours that went unnoticed by adoring fans.
Somehow, these examples make all of the hardship seem worth it though, don’t they? Because, in the end, the hours spent, ultimately resulted in victory and ovation. They were not for nothing. They were the foundation for later greatness.
So, then, let me acknowledge the elephant in the room. What happens when we spend time, money, hard-work, or emotional investment working on something that doesn’t lead to greatness? What if we never see the grand results we anticipated from our efforts?
Does that mean that our work was in vain? Do those hours and efforts deserve to be “burned,” so to speak? Were they wasted pages in our life story?
I don’t believe so. Not in the economy of God’s Kingdom.
Anything that we put our hands and minds to will inevitably change us. Our literal, internal neural circuitry changes as we learn new skills, gain new experiences, learn life lessons. Memories are made and stored. Each skill we learn, whether or not we become experts, changes our internal landscape. Each experience adds to our wealth of knowledge and wisdom. Life lessons are adding color and depth to our stories. Nothing is wasted.
In the Kingdom of God, success is not measured in money, fame, or expertise. It’s measured in willingness, humility, courage, and faithfulness.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), Jesus’ warning is for the man who did not do anything with his talent. He buried it. He tried nothing. He did nothing. His fear of negative results held him back.
Friends, be encouraged today. If you’re living and breathing, you’ve got time to keep trying and to keep learning. The endeavors that you put your hands to, whether or not they earn you money or notoriety, are making an impact in your life and on others.
So, when you have to take seasons of rest, or leave projects left unfinished, or “burn” a few that didn’t turn out quite right, you can remember that you are still a masterpiece in the making. You are brave for trying, and you are not the same as you were before you started.
Additionally, God’s Kingdom exists beyond the results we can see and measure. Our good work may be earning us rewards that we may never see with our human eyes. So, don’t grow weary in doing good.
Your story is still in process.
Note: No violins were harmed in the writing of this piece.