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.
“It is what it is”—a common phrase you hear and maybe even say yourself. But the truth is that there is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence that simply is what it is. Justin McRoberts invites you to embrace a new mindset: it is what you make of it.
With warmth, wisdom, and humor, McRoberts shares key moments from his twenty-plus years as an artist, church planter, pastor, singer-songwriter, author, neighbor, and father, passing on lessons and practices learned about making something good from what you’ve been given rather than simply accepting things as they are.
Thought-provoking but actionable, It Is What You Make of It declares that love doesn’t just win, mercy doesn’t just triumph, and light doesn’t just cast out shadow. Rather, such renewal requires the work of human hands and hearts committed to a vision of a world made right (or at least a little better). When we partner with God in these endeavors, we love the world well and honor the Creator in whose image we are made.
We will not be remembered for who our parents were or where we were born or what our socioeconomic circumstances were. We won’t be remembered for our natural talents and strengths or the opportunities we were given or the challenges we faced. In the end, each of us will be remembered for what we made with what we were given.
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.”
Taken from “It Is What You Make of It” by Justin McRoberts. Copyright 2021 by Justin McRoberts. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.
It Is What You Make Of It by Justin McRoberts is a refreshing and encouraging book. In his book, Justin discusses how self-doubt and our limited views of ourselves are interfering with our full God-given potential. Though this book has a focus on faith, I think the main message is one that is relatable to everyone.
I really like how this book urges readers to explore their “it is what it is” frame of thinking. We don’t always dig deep enough to see things for what they truly are or acknowledge why they are that way. Oftentimes, some of us accept a surface-level explanation for why our life is the way it is. But, in It Is What You Make Of It, Justin seeks to change that. He helps us take a hard look at our lives and challenges us to change it if we don’t like what we see.
Your life is not just a set of scale circumstances that “are what they are” without hope of change or improvement or transformation.
If you’ve been hesitant about making some big life changes, It Is What You Make Of It will help kick you into gear.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours for inviting me on this blog tour for It Is What You Make Of It. I received a free copy of this book through TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.