Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me. (Psalm 139:13, 16)
According to legend, when a young boy asked the great Renaissance artist Michelangelo why he was working so hard hitting the block of marble that would eventually become his greatest sculpture, David, the artist replied, “Young man, there is an angel inside this rock, and I am setting him free.”
Often the world judges people and events by the external circumstances. For without full knowledge we can never be sure our judgment is correct. God has known us from our conception and has designed works that only we can accomplish.
From humanity’s early days we have been given the gift of choice, and the realization of right and wrong. Each of us chooses the road we will take, regardless of our nationality or circumstances. We may choose to seek learning and knowledge no matter what the cost, or we may conclude it is beyond us. We may be born into a nation where poverty and disease prevail. In which case we may choose to seek out food and assistance for our family and ourselves, or we may simply accept the status quo.
Recently in Afghanistan we have seen the result when one girl who was determined to attend school defied the edicts of the Taliban. She was shot, but that shot rang out across the world, and we all realized how deprived these children were. Since her recovery she is now in the UK and absorbing her lessons as would a thirsty camel drink water.
Only God knows what lies inside each of us, just what potentials and gifts we have, and how our lives will unfold if we walk the path set before us. Nothing, no person nor circumstance can divert us from God’s goal when we choose to put our hand in that of our Creator. But it is we who must make the choices in our lives. We cannot blame our failures or disappointments on others for our response to interaction with others is always our own choice.
The most attractive people in the world are those whose inner beauty shines through their conversation, the peace they exude and their cheerfulness in the face of adversity. They look at the world, whether it is just their own region or events world-wide, and are awakened to the needs of others, and to the shortfalls in society. They are not usually the banner wavers, instead in their own quiet way they seek to be part of the remedy.
God is like the sculptor who sees in the rough stone of which we are composed a beautiful angel, a vision of loveliness. And in God’s hands that vision comes to life, and can reach its full potential. However from that initial glance to the finished product there are lots of hammer blows that will impact on that stone, blows that will provide the initial shape, and then all the finer gentler taps that define the figure emerging from the rough source. And every so often the sculptor steps back to gain a newer perspective of the work in hand, before recommencing the refining chiseling.
Looking back at our lives we can see the times when there has needed to be a distinct change in our lives, when circumstance had changed our direction, when close friends have relocated or become distant. In all of these circumstances we can see God’s hand at work, removing from our lives those parts or people who mar the emerging angel. The lighter shaping has been accomplished without too much disruption to our lives, but still the transformation God has in mind is constantly being achieved.
Of course there are those times we deliberately by word or deed leave the path God has chosen for us, and find ourselves in the quicksand of disaster. Our relationships have gone awry, our work has proved futile, and our attempts to assist have instead created more problems. Happily, though, God has not left us alone, and is there to take our hands and guide us to a path less thistle-strewn, and without the briars that have pricked us wherever we turned. The angel within the stone is re-emerging. God again holds the chisel. And our transformed lives emerge.
Rev. Vera I. Bourne of Lismore, N.S.W., Australia, served as Outreach Clergy at Christs Community Church.