Negative space can carry many positives

Negative space can carry many positivesThe line-up was striking – a weight loss center was sandwiched between a pizza place and an ice cream parlor in a local shopping center.

Can you imagine the struggle one would feel when going to a weight-control session? Smelling pizza and seeing ice cream cones heaped with creamy, soft stuff?

On the positive side, we could say that since losing weight is more of a lifestyle that involves the mind, rather than a diet that involves the appetite, the location enables clients to steel themselves against appetite temptations while having the support of a like-minded group.

But the three sings – pizza place, weight loss salon, ice cream parlor – also speak volumes about life’s daily struggles.

Often life is sandwiched between negatives where we have to fight to stay focused on what’s important to our success.

“Whenever positive things happen to us in life, we can bet that something negative is going to temp us,” my father often said. That’s not fatalism; that’s reality, he contended.

Life is not all successes; life is progress marked with challenges and setbacks. The old two-steps-forward-and-one-step-backward pattern of living holds true for most of us.

In his pep talk just before a big game, one football coach reminded his team that “Anyone can score a touchdown. It’s merely a matter of stepping across the goal line.

“But,” he said, pausing for effect, “getting up after you are slammed to the ground – brushing off the dirt, then hitting the line again -is the mark of a real champion.”

We’re often slammed to the ground more frequently than we score touchdowns. However, future touchdowns are possible only when we rise from failures that have tackled us. No one can stay on the ground and accomplish anything.

That’s true in any game, even the one we play every morning when we get out of bed and begin our day.

As one seminary professor once told my father, “You are not called to be successful; you are called to be faithful.” And when we are faithful to whatever our calling and job, Dad believed, success somehow comes.

However, success may not be in the form we’ve envisioned. In fact, its pursuit often has a form that reshapes us in ways we never dreamed possible. The negatives, failures, and temptations can strengthen the resolve for success – and even help redefine it.

In art, they call it negative space. A new friend was describing her weekly art lessons. “Before we could paint, we had to learn how to draw. It was difficult,” she told me, “until they showed us how to focus on the negative space – the space around the subject – to get a clearer definition of the subject.”

Perhaps our struggles make us stronger, more resolved, more sure of what we want by contrast of what we don’t want.

So what’s in our negative space this year? What positives can we learn from it? How can it help us get definition about what’s important to our faithful pursuits?

This column was co-authored and edited by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli, daughter of the late Dr. R.F. Smith Jr., a long-time columnist for The Herald-Dispatch.