Saturday, September 15, 2007

Chipping Away

The Lord put it on my heart to blog about something. He brought to mind a B.C. comic that I had read many years ago. One of the cavemen was chipping away at a big rock, while another caveman named Peter was posing for the sculpture. Someone asked the sculptor how he went about the process and the sculptor said, "It's easy, I just chip away everything that doesn't look like Peter." I have been rolling around in my mind what I wanted to say about it, when the Lord led me to another website. It says everything I wanted to say, but probably better.

Just outside of Atlanta Georgia is a place called Stone Mountain which is a granite mountain rising up out of the ground approximately 700 feet into the sky. Of course this natural beauty has been made into a tourist attraction that involves breathtaking views, hiking, an amusement park, camping and great restaurants, but it’s claim to fame is located on the north face. Here towering above the trees carved in great detail is a gigantic memorial to the leaders of the Confederacy: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, all on horseback. This sculpture was made by a man named Gutzon Borglum and was commissioned by the state of Georgia in 1917, but wasn’t finished and dedicated until 1970. This monstrous undertaking must have been overwhelming in the beginning. Think for a minute what had to be determined in the mind of the artist before he started. He had to seemingly be able to see into the future to get a vision of what he desired the final product to look like, he had to count the cost and determine if he could complete the task and then he had to accept the reality of the massive patience and perseverance required to go the distance.In reading about this man and his great accomplishment, something caught my eye and God stirred my heart. The artist made a statement after completing the sculpture that sums up the Christian life and our endeavor to pursue holiness. He said, “This was a process of taking FROM the mountain, not adding to it. The mountain is somewhat smaller after the completion than at its beginning, but it’s far more beautiful and meaningful.” All that had been required was 50 years of chipping and chiseling - the removal of every ounce of granite that was obscuring the images of these three leaders and their horses.

This is how we begin our walk with the Lord. We’re big in pride, large in ego and large in personal ambition and to our ‘bigness’ we expect God to add his beautifying graces thus making us larger still. But we soon become angry when we find out that God doesn’t plan to add to or bless our flesh - instead, He begins to chip away at it. If we live fully for Christ, we will more than likely end life smaller in the eyes of the world, but with far more beauty and meaning as a result of the Sculptor’s hand! All through your journey, God is chipping away everything that doesn’t look like His Son which includes everything that is obscured by our granite-like will. This is what John was talking about when he said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” And like the mountain, we don’t get to choose the tools the Sculptor uses to complete His project. And I’m sure if the mountain could speak, I dare say Stone Mountain would say it didn’t like being picked at for half a century, but I also suspect that in the years since and the years ahead, it would confess to rather enjoying the pleasure it brings to those who stare at it and gaze upon it. But we differ with the mountain in that we have a choice as to whether or not we submit to the hammer - the mountain had no say in the matter. The decision to be made into a work of art all rests in our hearts. Will you give the Sculptor the freedom to start His masterpiece? Before you answer that, count the cost and consider the time it will take. Accept the fact that this could take a lifetime to complete and then ask God to give you a glimpse of what you’ll look like when He’s finished. Now THAT’S a work of art!
I just wanted to add the clarification (or maybe refinement is a better word) that this process doesn't improve our flesh. Our flesh will never get better. This is a process of turning more and more areas of our life over to the control of the Holy Spirit.


Bino B. Manjasseril said...

At first I liked the idea – God chipping away the ‘unwanted’ from us. I even wrote comments on this. But then, when I checked John 15 to relate this process (chipping) to the pruning of branches, it surprised me.

You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. (V3, )

Isn’t that interesting? It looks like there is no more ‘improvement/purification/pruning/chipping away’ (of any kind) required. The only thing matters here is the time (season) to bear fruit.

I think the only thing God does in the process of us growing in His grace is to teach us to see things from His perspective. He is not trying to improve us in any fashion.

When Paul said,

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

I think this is what He meant – See things from God’s perspective.

Any thoughts?

Gary Kirkham said...

"I think the only thing God does in the process of us growing in His grace is to teach us to see things from His perspective. He is not trying to improve us in any fashion."

I think that seeing things from His perspective is preparatory. As I mentioned in the postscript, our flesh never gets better. In fact our flesh gets worse, or more accurately, our realization of just how bad our flesh is increases as we grow in Christ.

I think that the growth process is "learning" to turn more of our lives over to God. We become less, so that He can become more. So, in that sense, there is a chipping away at our reliance on and love of self. I don't think that happens until we see things from His perspective.

We don't become more righteous or holy, but through this process we begin to trust in and act like who we really are, in Christ.


Joel Brueseke - Grace Roots said...

I like what you've both said here. I think it's about the renewing of the mind (soul). I agree that it's not about the renewing or improving of the flesh, since it can't be improved upon, and I'd add that it's also not about renewing the spirit, since our spirit has been made as new as it will ever be! :)

I agree that we learn to trust more and more in God's life in us, and less and less in reliance on self I think the chipping away happens at the soul level, to get the mind to line up with the reality of what has already happened in the spirit - which ultimately results in Christ being "formed" more and more in us.