The famous Renaissance artist and sculptor, Michelangelo, said,“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
Art involves seeing the invisible and making it visible, which is why art is very much like faith. The ordinary person sees a block of stone, of marble, a piece of wood, something shapeless, but the artist sees beyond the shapeless form to the sculpture within. Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.” The artist, with patience and determination, chisels away at the block until the statue emerges. We are amazed at what the mundane marble can reveal.
Yet the process of uncovering this art is often unglamorous and painstaking. Is there any less glamorous tool than a chisel? Or any more laborious work than using it to chip away at the stone? Most of us would be tempted to get out the sledgehammer, seeking the quick fix, but the sculptor, the carpenter, does not have that option. Theirs is a work of infinite patience and loving care.
Art takes time. And patience. And a belief that the work is worth it.
We are like that marble block. There’s a sculpture within each one of us which God is chiselling to reveal. We grumpily submit to His chisel most of our lives, wanting the work to be finished, resenting the time He is spending on forming our character and shaping the inner man. We want favourable circumstances and happy relationships, but He is busy working to chisel away every imperfection in us, refining us, re-shaping us, re-forming us. It’s a process that He will not rush. It’s a process that we cannot rush. It’s perhaps the reason Jesus was a carpenter on earth.
Touch that finished sculpture in the art gallery and be amazed. Explore its surface. Feel its contours. Marvel at the shape that has been revealed.
God is making everything beautiful in its time. (Eccl 3:11) Even us.