I've been pondering Michelangelo.
Everyone knows he is famous for the enormous David sculpture he chiseled out a a huge slab of marble. Perhaps less known are his discarded Prisoners.
The Prisoners are unfinished sculptures. In some of them you can see a perfect arm, muscles perfectly and painstakingly carved out of rock. Part of a face, a hand, a foot or torso. But none of them is finished.
It's interesting that when Michelangelo was asked how in the holy heck he made this behemoth of a statue, he basically said he just cut away everything that was not David. It would seem he already knew by looking at the blank stone what would emerge. He knew exactly what he wanted his masterpiece to look like.
Friends, we are like those unfinished sculptures with one notable exception: we will not be discarded or left unfinished. Jesus said that He will never leave us or forsake us, and we have a beautiful promise that the God who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion.
I think about the bad habits and character flaws I have battled with all my life. Like my tendency to be critical, or my overuse of sarcasm and snark. I struggle to follow through and be consistent, to be a good steward, and to respond with patience. I get frustrated when I screw up and start the self-loathing tirade. I doubt sometimes that I'll ever emerge from this prison of stubborn flesh. I can feel the shackles of Michelangelo's Prisoners, trapped in hard stone. When I focus on my shortcomings, guilt is the only thing I can feel chipping away at me.
Our God makes all things beautiful in His time. He restores the years the locusts have devoured. He brings beauty and loveliness out of the ash heap.
And I believe.
He is making us His masterpiece, friends.
He sees us, trapped in sin and mess and failure and, like Michelangelo looking at his David-in-progress, he sees those things do not belong. So He chisels them away. It can be painful. But slowly, we start to realize those are not the things meant to define us. We can take the ugly and the guilt and the struggle and bow down our hearts and tell the Great Artisan we trust Him to keep only what He envisions us to be.
One last thought? Artists leave their mark on their masterpieces. Instead of being critical, instead of seeing the ugly, I'm determined anew to look for His signature on my brothers and sisters. To see proof of His involvement and plan for their lives. I want eyes to see and words to encourage. My heart yearns for all of us to get a little glimpse of His vision, so we might hope against hope that He is making something beautiful out of all of us after all.
Creating a masterpiece takes time.
I know it sounds cliche, but really, we are a work in progress.
And He isn't finished with us yet.