It Is What You Make of It

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Author Justin McRoberts dares you to move beyond “it is what it is” thinking and become an agent of love and redemption in your household, neighborhood, and workplace.

The sculpture we call David didn’t exist until Michelangelo took hammer and chisel and did the hard work of making it; up to that point there was only marble. Relatedly, Michelangelo had a hammer to use because, about 3.3 million years before he was born, some blessed sister or brother used a large rock to crush smaller rock into splinters and eventually strapped a stick of some sort to a similar rock and discovered they could crush rock with even greater force.

Just about nothing is what it is. Not in a world inhabited by people created in the image of God, in whose hands is both creation and resurrection. The capacity to make and remake is a thumbprint of the Divine on humanity. I’ll go so far as to say that we dishonor our Creator when we give in to “it is what it is” thinking.

Love doesn’t just win.

Mercy doesn’t just triumph.

Light doesn’t just cast out shadow.

Peace doesn’t just get a chance.

Forgiveness doesn’t just restore.

And time has never healed a single wound without the loving, attentive way people have spent that time after hurting one another.

All of these essential aspects of human life require the work of human hands—hands committed to a vision of the world made right (or at least a world made better). Hands of someone created in the image of God—which includes the ability to be creative. You were born with the capacity to create!

Maybe you weren’t told that at home while growing up.

Or in school.

Or in the training you did for your job.

But if your teachers or trainers or neighbors drew a line between who you are and what you do (whatever it is), they were wrong.

Maybe you were told that you “just” teach or you “just” parent or you “just” coach or you “just” lead your team at the office or you “just” play your part on the team.

I’d like to help you see how limited is that view of who you are, what you’re capable of, and maybe even what you’ve really been up to all this time.

The question in traditional art making is all about what to do with what we have on hand; it is a question almost always focused on what’s next. For an artist, feeling “stuck” is just another call to creativity. “Writer’s block,” for example is a way an artist’s soul says, “This isn’t the way I’m supposed to feel.” The stuck writer doesn’t say, “Welp. Looks like that’s it! I’m not a writer anymore now that I feel stuck.” She says, “I’ve got this problem right now. I’ll call it ‘writer’s block.’ I need to find a way to fix it or get out of it so that I can get back to being who I am and doing what I’m designed to do; I’m a writer, after all.” There are no dead-ends for artists. Dead ends are simply more radical and challenging invitations to create a way forward.

And I get it; there is a virtual army of contentious voices around you screaming that life “is what it is,” and particularly in places you feel stuck.

Your work life: “it is what it is.”

Your social life: “it is what it is.”

Your physical health: “it is what it is.”

I’m saying that’s all garbage. Your life is not just a set of stale circumstances that “are what they are” without any hope of change or improvement or transformation. I don’t know exactly where that voice is coming from in your particular life, but I want to help you locate it and shut it up forever. I’d like to help you silence it and replace it with something more like:

“I am a beloved child of God—the same God who created all things out of nothing. I am created in the image of that loving, creating, death-defying, circumstance-transforming God. I am a creature who creates. And anything and everything I do with my time on this earth and in this body is a reflection and expression of who I am.”

So I am going to tell you a few stories in expectation that, after reading them, you will look at your own life and circumstances and resources and opportunities and obstacles, step over that whole “it is what it is” nonsense, turn your eyes upward to the God who made you to be a maker, and say, “Let’s see what we can make of this.”

Throughout this book, I’ll walk through key moments from my twenty-plus years as an artist, church planter, pastor, songwriter, author, neighbor, husband, and father, passing on lessons and practices I’ve learned about making something good from what I’ve been given rather than simply accepting it as it is.

I will invite you to see yourself as an agent of love and redemption in your household, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, and wherever you find yourself. I will challenge us to wisely reexamine the apparently immovable systems you and I participate in (political, religious, economic) and to see our essential role in long-term change. I will invite you to believe that you are a partner with God in the renewing of all things.

“Christ in you,” wrote the apostle Paul, “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

“Christ”—who took things like bread and dirt and water and made miracles—“In you, the hope of glory.”

“Christ”—who took a small group of souls and built the global movement we call the church—“In you, the hope of glory.”

“Christ”—who took death itself into his outstretched hands and made from it Life Eternal—“In you, the hope of glory.”

Each of these stories is propelled by a constant prayer that sounds something like this:

“Let there be not one square inch in all of human existence about which you and I say, ‘It is what it is.’ Instead, may it be so that every moment of our collective time here together is marked by the power and potential of the knowledge that it is what we make of it.”


Justin

Justin McRoberts lives in the Oakland–San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Amy, and two children. He is the author of four books, including Prayer: 40 Days of Practice and May It Be So: 40 Days with the Lord’s Prayer. Justin’s 16 albums and EPs have gained him a faithful audience among listeners nationwide since 1999. He is also the host of the podcast @ Sea with Justin McRoberts and co-founding pastor of Shelter-Vineyard Church Community in Concord, CA.

Taken from “It Is What You Make of It” by Justin McRoberts. Copyright 2021 by Justin McRoberts. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.

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