Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Chainsaw and the Chisel

Last year I studied the book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst with my Bible study ladies.  In that book and accompanying DVD, Lysa compared us to great sculptures.  She specifically mentioned Michelangelo's David.  And by the way, she even went to Italy to film in front of the actual statue!

When Michelangelo was asked about how he carved this masterpiece, he is reported as saying that he simply chipped away all that wasn't David.  He also said, "I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free."

Lysa TerKeurst likened us to marble statues, imprisoned in marble until God shapes us into who we were meant to be.  She urged us to let God chisel us.

I understood her analogy (and was also in awe after learning more about Michelangelo and this particular masterpiece).  This analogy was brought back to my mind a couple weeks ago, and I thought of it in a little more detail.

I think sometimes God approaches a marble slab with a chainsaw, removing large chunks that clearly aren't meant to be there.  At other times, he approaches delicately with a tiny chisel and undersized hammer to work on the details.

Some of those chainsaw moments are eliminating obvious sins.  Perhaps the Big 10 (the Ten Commandments).  He rids us of behaviors that get in the way of our relationship with him and pull us off the path he has carefully laid out.

The chiseling moments are a little harder to distinguish.  Maybe the Bible doesn't specifically say that my exact behavior is wrong, but God whispers to me that my attitude or behavior isn't matching the best that he has planned for me.

A couple weeks ago I found myself in the position where I had been wronged by someone.  Now I don't say that to be stubborn or conceited.  If I told you the details, you would all vote in my favor.  But that would negate what I'm trying to tell you.

So there I was, knowing that I had done the right thing and that this other person was out of line.  I wasn't going to get ugly about it.  But I had drafted in my mind a little something to say that carefully walked that line of being funny but still getting my point across.  Don't pretend you haven't walked that line.

As I sat with my phone in my hand ready to send my carefully written message, God began to chisel.

His voice came in a whisper.  "You could say that.  There's not anything rude or harsh in your message.  And this person really did wrong you."


"Are you offering me your best?  Do you want to just get your payoff from being right?  Or do you want to go further and offer grace?"

My initial reaction really wasn't out of line by most people's standards.  But God wanted to use this as an opportunity to teach me and shape me in a way that we haven't worked on yet.

Yelling, accusing, and holding a grudge can all be addressed with the chainsaw.  I already know how God feels about those behaviors.  But changing the subtleties of the way I speak, especially when I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything wrong and the other person that's chiseling the details.

Michelangelo could envision the perfect sculpture within a block of marble before he had removed one bit.  And God looks at each one of us and sees the person we were meant to be.

The day I gave my heart to Jesus on a school night at a church play, I gave him permission to start carving.  I could look down around me and see chunks of marble at my feet, where God had to make some painful cuts so I could begin to take shape.

But the exciting thing is that the details are really what make a masterpiece breathtaking.  My hope is to have fewer chunks falling and more bits and crumbs and dust being removed.  I want to yield each part of my unfinished form to the hands that created oceans with mere fingerprints and also placed each tiny eyelash on my children's faces.

It's not always easy, but I'm trying to let God chisel away at anything that's not me.  That means letting him take his time on the details.  It's the only way I'll ever truly be the masterpiece he longs for me to be.


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