I worked hard. I wrote stories I thought were good, grammatically correct and compelling. I designed graphics. I took pictures. I teamed up with and experienced graphic designer and created a beautiful publication.
I sent it to my supervisor and my bosses, excited about what I had created.
And then it came back, covered in red pen. When I say covered, I really mean it. Every page was torn to pieces with edits and changes and critiques. Not a single block of text was left untouched.
I felt like a failure. I felt like my hard work had been all for nothing, like the hours I had spent crafting every piece of that publication were wasted since they led to such an overwhelming amount of revisions.
This is criticism at its finest, because it was criticism of my art, my work, my craft. It cut deeply, it stung, it made me feel worthless and dumb.
A friend tweeted at me in response to my frustrated "Proofs covered in red pen edits are no fun to receive. It's going to be a long day." tweet. She said "I always try to think of it as a good thing - someone is invested enough in your writing to help?" And she is so right. I let those words sink in to my bitter and frustrated spirit, and I knew in my gut how true her words were.
Those criticisms weren't to make me feel like I was the world's worst writer. My stories weren't edited to make me feel like I had bad ideas. Those critiques and changes came to me because people wanted to help. They wanted my work to be better, to be the best it could be. They saw mistakes and areas of weakness and they gave me suggestions to improve them. They were helping. They weren't hurting.
In some Bibles, when Jesus speaks, the text is red. For an editor/writer type like me, red type means edits, changes, revisions. Black type means it's good, acceptable, can stay as is. Red letters in the Bible do mean change. They are the biggest change, they are truth that changes every part of you. They are words from the mouth of a man who was also God, a man who came to the earth not to hurt, but to help. He came and spoke those red letter words to bring people in to the best life, to a better future. Those words spoke into areas of our weakness, covered our mistakes, and gave us words of life to cling to and believe in when we so badly needed a way to improve.
Someone was invested enough in our lives to help. Someone was willing to come into our mess and cover it with red. Red words of life, and red blood of love. The ultimate sacrifice.
We get excited about things we create. We make things happen in our little worlds, we use our talents to bring beauty and art to those around us, we think we've done something worthy of praise. We worked hard, tried to make beautiful things happen. And then we look to the cross, and we see that all we are is so little, so meaningless in the face of that love. We aren't worthless at the foot of that cross. We are worthy: of His love and His grace and His truth. All that we are and all that we've made is covered in red. Not the red of anger, or of condemnation, or criticism. The red of love, of pouring out just to save us. We don't have to work hard or make things happen in our lives to receive that love. It comes abundantly, free of judgment for past mistakes and shortcomings.
We, in all our imperfections, aren't worthy of the highest praise. He, in all His might and glory and redeeming red love, is.