And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
You’ve probably heard the story that’s attributed to Michelangelo upon the completion of his masterpiece David. According to some accounts, the sculptor was asked how he created such a stunning work from a flawed piece of marble. His purported response, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.” A quaint tale but probably just an urban myth.
In our lives as disciples, we very well recognize the process that can be experienced any given day as God chips away at the matter that forms us and transforms us, “slowly by slowly” into that person he intended us to be from Creation. He’s making us into what Eugene Peterson calls “our true self” while Oswald Chambers says God is changing our individuality into personality.
Paul, especially, gets in on the discussion when he writes about dying to self and the flesh that probably gives us more trouble than any evil thing that can be flung our way. Remember the old saying that a corpse doesn’t respond to good or ill? That’s not exactly what God is doing with us, but as we become our true self, Jesus increases and we decrease. We are becoming.
God gives us that tricky power of will so that we can either choose to cooperate with his process or resist and find it’s not comfortable “kicking against the pricks.” God is constantly working in us “to will and do of his good pleasure,” and as he works in us, those parts of us that are not our true self are chipped away. Yes, it can sometimes be painful, but the result is pure beauty.
In “Let Go” Fenelon reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised at what God reveals in us—sensitivity, impatience, haughtiness, self-will. That’s just our “natural disposition, and without God’s grace, [we] will never be anything different.”
So what are we to do? Rest. We simply rest and cooperate with the chipping that God is doing. He won’t remove anything but those extraneous things that have leeched onto us as we’ve bumbled along in our independent search for piety. God doesn’t need our help to make us saints; he just wants our cooperation, and he asks us to trust him and be still while he’s working.
Father, we love seeing your handiwork in others but don’t always appreciate your methods as you work in us. Thank you for patiently bearing our protests. Please keep up the good work. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.