Life isn't easy.
As if that's a new thought. (Captain Obvious and I are cousins??)
And sometimes it seems like the *hits keep on coming*.
You know what it's like.
Life can arrive so suddenly, so shockingly.
We are unprepared for the curveballs thrown at us. And often, just when we are reeling from one life circumstance, another one arrives to knock us down.
In the first six months of this year, I have pondered much about the process of refinement. About why it's so difficult. About why it's so important.
And sometimes in my conversations (rants, wails) with friends, I have often said this, "I'm just being carved deeper."
I got to thinking about that. About the whole process of sculpting, and I got curious. So I looked it up. Here are the stages of creating a sculpture:
1) The work begins with the selection of a stone for carving. (Michelangelo claimed that his job was to free the human form trapped inside the block)
"As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world." (John 15:19, NIV)
2) The carver usually begins by knocking off large portions of unwanted stone. (Energy is transferred along the tool, shattering the stone)
"And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart." (Ezekiel 36:26, NLT)
3) Then the sculptor uses other tools to refine the figure.
"I will bring [them] through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold." (Zechariah 13:9, NLT)
4) Eventually the sculptor has changed the stone from a rough block into the general shape of the finished statue.
"Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…" (Hebrews 6:1, NIV)
5) Tools are then used to enhance the shape into its final form.
"But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God's deep secrets."
(1 Corinthians 2:10, NLT)
6) The final stage of the carving process is polishing.
"So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT)
7) This abrading, or wearing away, brings out the color of the stone, reveals patterns in the surface, and adds a sheen.
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)
Can you see the parallels to the process of refinement that God does in our lives?
I especially liked what Michelangelo said – for it reminded me of how God is doing just that – freeing humans trapped inside of their sin.
But, believe me, the process isn't easy. And many times, it's downright painful.
If you're like me and love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, then you'll remember a particular scene from "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." A nasty and spoiled young boy named Eustace has made himself an obnoxious nuisance. Selfish, whiny, lazy – he causes all sorts of grief for his fellow voyagers.
Until he finds the treasure trove of a dying dragon. Thrilled at his newfound riches, he exults that he will never need anyone again. But overnight, he turns into a dragon himself.
With a bracelet that is way-too-tight, and a heart that begins to understand (and miss) what it really means to be a boy, he tries and tries to scratch off his dragon scales – but they always come back.
Until he has a rather startling encounter with the great lion, Aslan.
"'You will have to let me undress you,'" says Aslan the Lion.
The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . .
Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again…"
(The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis, c. 1952)
I love this scene, this moment in the story. For though it makes me wince, and though it makes me squirm – for I recognize myself in Eustace – it also fills my heart with the thrill of unconditional love and undeserved grace.
Yes, the first step in being carved starts by tearing through those crusty layers of sin. And through the blessing of salvation, we are made into something new.
That's the beginning.
And then, the rest of the process begins.
God has a way of shaping those He loves. Sometimes He uses a big old chisel and hammer, knocking off huge chunks of *self”* – ever earnestly desiring something better than what we settle for.
At times, after this process of "de-chunking," we might be tempted to think we have *arrived* in the walk of faith. We might be tempted to think that we are spiritually mature and complete.
Ah, pride cometh before a fall?!
For then, the Lord does deeper work.
He begins chipping away at the deeper stuff, the stuff that's more ingrained inside of us, the stuff that we might not even be fully aware of…
The flaws that lurk and remain.
I look again at the stages of sculpting (specifically #5, 6, and 7):
Enhancing the shape into its final form.
Abrading, wearing away.
Bringing out the color, revealing patterns, adding sheen.
This is what the Lord is after – deeper work, more detailed work, painstaking work, loving work.
Work that is after the final product – looking like His Son.
You see, there's a big difference between what we think is a *finished product* and what God wants.
For instance, there's a big difference between:
Not being selfish – and dying to self.
Thinking about others – and serving them.
Reading the Bible – and thirsting for God.
Saying prayers – and communing deeply and intimately with God.
Loving God – and putting Him first in all things.
Having faith – and trusting God.
Talking the talk – and walking the walk.
As much as it pains me (both figuratively AND literally!), I do want to look like Jesus.
But it isn't going to come easy – for it does NOT come naturally.
And so, life happens.
Sometimes suddenly, sometimes shockingly, and sometimes when we're already knocked down.
We are promised that it will happen this way…
"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you." (1 Peter 4:12, NLT)
"'Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.'" (John 16:33, NLT)
But, if we so choose, we can look at these circumstances in light of what the Lord is trying to accomplish through them.
He is creating a thing of beauty – a sculpture that resembles His Son.
Something that is detailed with all the light and shadows of life. With all the rough spots smoothed out. Highly polished and shining in glory.
A living sculpture that is made in the image of The Sculptor.
Sounds difficult and painful.
But worth it.
So, bring on the mallets, and chisels, and hammers, and rasps, and files, and sandpaper, Lord…
Create in me something beautiful…
Something that looks like YOU!
Carve me deeper.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
in the way everlasting!
"When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely."
(1 Corinthians 13:11-12, NLT)
"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3, ESV)
"Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory." (Colossians 3:1-4, NLT)
"...He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you." (Philippians 1:6, AMP)
How are you being *carved deeper*?
Linked today with:
SHARING HIS BEAUTY, PLAYDATES WITH GOD, UNFORCED RHYTHMS, INSPIRE ME MONDAY, MONDAY'S MUSINGS, TITUS 2 TUESDAYS, SOLI DEO GLORIA, TELL ME A TRUE STORY, UNITE, TESTIMONY TUESDAY, WHIMSICAL WEDNESDAYS, CAPTURE YOUR JOURNEY, A LITTLE R & R WEDNESDAYS, WHOLEHEARTED WEDNESDAY, THREE WORD WEDNESDAY, TELL HIS STORY, WINSOME WEDNESDAY, WORD FILLED WEDNESDAY, COFFEE FOR YOUR HEART, WORDS OF LIFE WEDNESDAYS, THOUGHT-PROVOKING THURSDAY, THRIVING THURSDAY, LIGHT FRIDAY HIT LIST, EVERYDAY JESUS, THRIVE AT HOME THURSDAY, HEARTS FOR HOME, GRACE AT HOME, FELLOWSHIP FRIDAYS, FAITH FILLED FRIDAY, FRIENDSHIP FRIDAY, ESSENTIAL FRIDAYS, WHATEVER IS LOVELY, SPIRITUAL SUNDAYS, COUNTING MY BLESSINGS, MAKE MY SATURDAY SWEET, STILL SATURDAY, SATURDAY SOIREE, RECOMMENDATION SATURDAY, WEEKEND BREW, SUNDAY STILLNESS, GIVE ME GRACE
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