Susan Sparks: Etch-A-Sketching Life

Emotional healing can come from many places: prayer, meditation, Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream . . .

One of the most powerful sources is the feeling of having a clean slate.

That’s why The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book by Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, has sold more than 8.5 million copies in forty languages and is now a Netflix special.

That’s why confessing in church feels good.

That’s why “Tomorrow is another day” is one of the most famous lines in movie history.

It’s also why the Ohio Art Company made a fortune on the Etch A Sketch. A mechanical drawing toy with a flat gray screen and red plastic frame, it allows you to draw something, then turn it upside down, shake it, and start over with a blank screen.

The lesson? No matter how badly you mess up, you can always make a fresh start. No wonder it’s one of the most popular toys of all time. It reminds us that we have the power to change.

That’s why we need to do a little Etch-A-Sketching in life. Between soaring COVID numbers, government insurgencies, fraught transitions, and families who don’t know how they’ll feed their kids, we could use a clean slate.

The good news is that an Etch A Sketch is not the only mechanism that offers one. We have—in our collective possession—the power needed for physical, emotional, and spiritual regeneration.

For example, the mechanism of the human body is built to regenerate naturally. Every time we take in a breath, then exhale, we get a clean slate in our lungs. Every beat of our heart offers us a clean slate of oxygen-fed blood moving through and cleansing our body. Every moment we are alive, our cells change, regenerate, and grow, giving us a cleaner slate of health.

In addition to our human bodies, creation can offer us emotional renewal (if we take a moment to notice its lessons). Every morning when the sun comes up, life starts anew—literally. Babies are born; oxygen is pumped back into the atmosphere by our forests; rain and sunlight bring growth. Creation, by its nature, offers us the daily hope of a clean slate.

Perhaps the most powerful intimation is on a spiritual level. The Bible is full of reminders like the one in Psalm 51:10: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

And now, let me say something that you have probably never heard from a Baptist minister: let’s consider some pagan wisdom. The month of January was named in honor of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions who is usually depicted with two faces—one looking to the past and one looking to the future.

Janus is right—we need to consider both the past and the future to appreciate our course. However, we must eventually release the past to allow the power of a clean slate to drive our future. It’s like Marie Kondo’s philosophy about tidying your house: If an item doesn’t spark joy, thank it for its service and let it go.

Do you need a fresh start?

Do you want a do-over?

Do you long for a second chance?

This week look at the state of your physical, emotional, and spiritual house. If you don’t like what you see, shake it clean, look to the future, and start again. We all deserve a clean slate. Just nibble on a little Cherry Garcia and consider Etch-A-Sketching life.

[This piece was also featured as a nationally syndicated column with the USA Today Network.]


Just a quick update: My new devotional "Grace-Filled Gratitude" is a best-seller in several categories on Amazon! Order your copy HERE!

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