…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:16
If you’ve not read The Velveteen Rabbit, drop everything and go get a copy. It really is an allegory of life and love and authenticity. The little toy bunny in the story is told by the Skin Horse that he can become real through love. The poor bunny is outmatched by fancier and more complicated toys, and the possibility of realness seems remote. But suffering and near tragedy brings out something in him that was never there before.
How like us in our pursuit of spiritual growth. Our objective is clear: become the person God intended from the dawn of creation. And then we begin the process. We think study will move us forward. We fill our lives with books. We believe emulating Jesus’ good works will win his approval. We volunteer for every good deed on the bulletin board. We try to produce good fruit so that God will be honored and people will be blessed. All these things and more we do on our own.
And all the while, becoming is not our doing. It’s all of God. Yes, we can cooperate, but he’s the one who does the work. Like the clay under the potter’s hand, our job is to surrender and to hold still as he pounds and shapes and then reshapes and then spins us wildly on the wheel as his hands hold us lovingly, forming us as he will. And when he finishes, we are the work of his hands and the image of his making.
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil 2:13). Resting in God’s hands doesn’t guarantee comfort; it doesn’t promise ease; but it does ensure peace and warrants transformation. And all the while, God is bringing us into truth. We are becoming real as he cuts off the superficial and removes the phony props and takes away everything that is not of him.
Do you remember the story that was attributed to have been Michaelangelo’s explanation for his brilliant sculpture of David? It is said that he was questioned as to how he was able to so radically create David from the massive piece of marble that had been rejected by other sculptors. The simple response? I cut out everything that was not David. Perhaps that’s an apocryphal statement, but it is what God seems to be doing with us. He looks at the self we have surrendered to him, and he begins to chip and cut and file away according to his design. He knows what he intends us to be, and as we lie still, he perfects his good work in us.
Like that little fictional rabbit, we finally become real.
Father, we long to have your love shape and mold and make us. Take us and let your will be done. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.