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Delete That

XXanXd then hXe . . . If you are old enough, you recognize this as what writing looked like before computer processing. In those days a writer’s essential tools included the “X” key and corrective tape. There was no mistaking that writing was a process involving painstaking effort in revising and correcting.

Surely this tedious process drove some frustrated writers into less exasperating venues of creativity, like classical harp playing or clogging, depriving the world of future greats in the vein of Shakespeare, Browning, or Seuss. The typewriter was a discouraging partner.

If it had not been for the requirements of my college education I would never have pecked out my first lines on that 47-key monstrosity. Yet by necessity I did, and I did it poorly. Thanks to my lack of skill, my perfectly adequate marketing research paper was downgraded from an A to a C solely on the basis of typos, the professors note adding insult to injury: “Excellent work. Learn to type.”

Slowly but steadily, regularly required use improved my skills. By the time I took a job on the college newspaper as a staff reporter I was down to only a few mistakes per page – but no less frustrated by the effort. I may have stopped writing all together had my destiny not crossed paths with technology at just the right time.

Today, revising on my computer is a snap with tools like ‘cut and paste’ and the ‘undo-redo’ functions. Among my favorite writing companions is the ‘delete’ key. So amiable is this key that it can change, “I thank my dog for you” into “I thank my God for you” with no one the wiser. “Delete” gives me the freedom to vent my frustrations in a perfectly composed diatribe to a colleague and then replace it with “your help is appreciated.” Delete takes away the misinformed, the mistaken, the inappropriate and the unfitting as if they had never been. Then with the click of the ‘save’ key the better version is permanently recorded and ready to be sent to its intended reader with no hint of the Herculean struggle that forged it. (Spoiler Alert: It took five revisions to polish that sentence.)

Thanks to technology, it’s less obvious these days that writing is a process of crafting, editing, reworking and beating your head on the keys until you get it right. Only the writer must endure the inadequate attempts, revisions, fails, and rewrites so readers are spared it all. And still sometimes, looking back at my own writing, I know I did not edit enough. It’s that is all part of the process – in writing and in life.

Each of us is writing an unmistakable life message that is being read by those around us every day. Some are content to live by the first draft philosophy, unedited and raw, unwilling to make a single alteration, presenting themselves unfiltered with a take-it or leave-it attitude in word and deed. Others revise only the most obvious errors, offering that which avoids offense but inspires nothing with the lackluster effort. Then there are those who strive to share a life message destined to become a classic to be read and beloved by many. Such people are far from perfect, yet their life messages are compelling reading as they harness the power of editing.

“Don’t say anything that would hurt another person. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you.” Ephesians 4:29 (God’s Word Translation)

People who give a great deal of thought to revising their messages are usually the ones who are deeply aware that God himself has rewritten their story. He meticulously edited our failed first draft when He X’ed out the consequences of our sin and revised it with the forgiveness of Christ.

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love . . . he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:8-12

In that revision that brings forgiveness we find the courage to write a better story, so that we become “a letter from Christ . . . written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:3-4

That is an aim worthy of whatever edits we need to make.

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