Exquisite Agony: Becoming a Masterpiece

The Way God Shapes You from the Rough Places

Without question, he defined what it meant to be a “Renaissance Man.” Michelangelo—born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni—is remembered as one of the most gifted Italian sculptors, painters, architects, and poets of all time.

Painter
(Image from Unsplash)

In fact, some say his approach to art was almost mystical. It’s been said he would study the blank canvas or chunk of marble and see in its shadows the finished product. Only then would he begin to create works of legendary art.

As with all sculpting and shaping processes, a variety of tools were needed. Some rocky surfaces required . . .

  • Hard blows
  • Weighty mallet
  • Wide chisel
  • Rough strokes

Others needed the touch of a feather for refinement—slow and patient hands shaping with meticulous effort until the final structure was completed.

In the end, the sculpture became strikingly glorious and exquisitely timeless by what was cut away from the original block of stone.

It is also known that Michelangelo was alone most of the time. Whether by choice or by circumstance, this creative man struggled with isolation.

Who would believe his personal reality was difficult by looking at his public accomplishments?

Faithfulness

As I write these words, I’m thinking of another gifted man who was also lonely. Ezekiel.

Ezekiel surrendered his life to the Lord in the same way as marble gave way to Michelangelo’s able hands. In the hands of our sovereign God, Ezekiel’s faith was shaped and deepened.

While the pain was agonizing, it produced a refined, resolved soul whom God used in a mighty way. God sculpted his life as a monument to both His wrath and His enduring compassion during the tumultuous times in which Ezekiel lived. Ezekiel was a captive in Babylon.

Yes, a captive . . . under horrible circumstances.

Why would God plop Ezekiel into horrible captivity and say he was “called”? “Called” to exile? “Called” to be a refugee? In addition to this, God cut a chunk out of Ezekiel’s heart.

He informed Ezekiel that his treasured wife would lose her life, a sign of God’s anger with the house of Israel (Ezekiel 24:16).

God commanded Ezekiel not to grieve in the customary way. In the morning, Ezekiel was warned; the next evening, his beloved was dead.

ARE YOU KIDDING? Seriously, Lord?

Seriously.

Ezekiel’s response:

So I proclaimed this to the people the next morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did everything I had been told to do (24:18).

How did Ezekiel endure? The truth is, we don’t know the details of how. It appears that the Lord made Ezekiel mute after he declared God’s words (24:27).

Perhaps in his silence, Ezekiel had a sort of haven. His obedience, even after such a deep, deep cut, is otherworldly. Though Ezekiel yielded his life to the Lord as marble surrendered to Michelangelo’s able hands, Ezekiel’s faith was not chipped away.

sculptor

(Image from Pixabay)

I like to imagine that God’s presence spoke to Ezekiel, comforting him in the midst of his grief, rewarding him with His presence because of his faithful obedience.

A New Heart

It may be that you are in a place of isolation or have hit rough times. God has gifted you in ways others envy. You long to use your gifts to honor the Lord, but He has closed the doors you once thought would be open.

You may almost feel like you are in captivity. In these times, remember Ezekiel.

Just as God formed and fashioned Ezekiel’s life, so He is doing with yours. A master artist, He sees what needs to be whittled—or sandblasted—away. The blows of life are so painful, but God doesn’t waste a single one.

Even pain, in God’s hands, can be a transformative tool. As God does His work, surrender your life to His hands. He knows what He’s doing.

What is God carving out of the rough rock of your life?

Our circumstances and status, brains and bodies don’t define our value. In fact, having more and knowing more can make circumstances more complicated.

How do we endure? Like Ezekiel, we yield to the Master’s hands. In Ezekiel 36:26–27, God called the people to repent of their evil ways and turn back to Him. He promised:

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. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

A “new heart” means a new mental disposition—a soul transformed from sinful and rebellious to spiritual and holy.

God promised to take the heart of stone and sculpt it, shape it into one disposed to surrender and even suffering as part of the transformation process.

As Creator, God sees a masterpiece in the marble of our human hearts.

Every circumstance, every experience, every gift, every loss, every single event in our lives can be used to grow us strong and steadfast if we choose to follow Him above all else.

Let Me Hear from You

How is God reframing your heart? Let’s connect on that this week.

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  • Mary Tutterow

    Again, you have spoken directly into our situation – which has been feeling like a prison. Our adult daughter’s seizures leave her more and more debilitated as she ages. There need to be two people with her at all times to help her as she is somewhat mobile, but prone to trips and falls. She weighs 170 lbs. Paid caregivers have abandoned ship for easier work. So my husband has sacrificed work hours to stay home with us. we are now selling our home and moving into a wheelchair accessible condo. Truly, we have laid down our lives. People tell us all the time, “Stop being martyrs. Put her in a home,” but just like Ezekiel, we know He is giving us new hearts through this excrutiating work. He is giving us a voice to speak out about the purpose and value of those society treats as disposable. The numbers of people who are disabled or aging are exploding. They are here to guide us back to what is essential – love.

    • Oh my gosh, Mary…you are honestly one of my hero’s! It’s one thing for folks to say they will ‘lay down their lives’; it’s another ball game all together when you HAVE to lay down your lives! And you are. I can’t imagine the grief and yet the joy. Isn’t the Christian life full of polarities-what appears to be in opposition is actually what brings us together.
      My first thought as you said you were moving to an accessible facility was… “I can’t imagine or wait to hear about all the lives you will touch”. Mary, God has you going to a place where you will be so much light in darkness…your path is about to widen with purpose. I use the word “widen” specifically because you are already fulfilling His purpose by how you love and care for His child, on loan to you for a good and transforming work. As you move to a new and different space, He goes before you, widening your path and giving you strength. WOW!
      Yes, it’s extremely hard…but I am reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy before his death. There, in that damp, dark, cold prison cell he penned… “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed…I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:16-18)
      Mary, He walks before you and I pray along with you. PLEASE let me know how you are doing. I am so honored to connect with you today! Colleen