In the little Italian burb of Florence, a sculptor taps patiently away at a seventeen foot tall block of marble.
Tap, tap, tap!
“Hmmm. Maybe a bit more right here,” he says to himself as he resets his chisel.
Tap, tap, CRACK!
“Oops!” says the sculptor as he stares at the huge section of stone totally crumbled at the block’s base. The monolith now looks as if it is leaning, about to fall over on its side. “Um, could somebody roll this thing outta here and get me a new block of marble!”
“Hey,” says his friend, Mike, who happens to be walking through. “If you’re not gonna use that, could I have it?”
The nameless sculptor shrugs. “Why not? It’s ruined now so I don’t want it. Yeah, you take it!”
With a little help from his protégés, Mike manages to get the nine ton stone block moved to his own studio. Once it is settled into place, he dismisses his students and then surveys the monolithic block of stone with a critical eye.
“You can’t hide from me. I see you in there,” he says as a smile spreads across his face. Armed with a hammer and chisel, Mike begins hunting the elusive quarry hidden within. For three years he breaks dead stone loose from the marble muscles and stony sinew of David. Eventually, the enemy of Goliath and the great king of Israel stands free and clear in front of Mike.
Our friend Mike, born Michelangelo Buonarroti, looks on the masterpiece before him and murmurs softly, “See? I told you that I’d find you.”
About fifteen hundred years before Michelangelo carved the magnificent form of David which now stands in the Galleria Dell’ Accademia in Florence, Jesus gazed on a rough cut figure of a fellow, a fisherman named Simon and saw something more than a “throwaway.”
After having met Jesus, Andrew “first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:41-42 ESV).
This is something of the reverse of Michelangelo who, when looking at a stone, saw the man. Jesus looked instead at a man and saw the stone (“Peter” means “stone”). Not a lump of oozing mud, not a pile of dusty and worthless rubble, not even gravel with which to line one’s driveway, Jesus saw something special hidden deep inside the rough and wild man. He saw him and discerned the potential for faith. He looked inside the heart of Peter and saw a faith that would profoundly grow and would change the world in unimaginable ways as the Holy Spirit of God worked within him.
Jesus “said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:15-18 ESV).
What do you see when you look at those around you? Do you see imperfections? Do you only perceive failures and “throwaways?” That’s not the way the Father sees them. He sees people who are broken, yes. He sees the blemishes and the faults, yes. He even sees the hidden imperfections that you and I cannot perceive with our human eyes.
But instead of looking at them as unwanted “lumps”, He sees instead what beautiful works of art that might be made of them. Instead of complaining about all the “block”-heads that are in His way, He dreams big dreams and welcomes the imperfect and marred into the divine studio of His grace. There He begins to patiently chisel out masterpieces as men and women place their faith wholeheartedly in Him and align themselves with His will.
I’m glad. I’m glad because I’m one of those “block”-heads. I’m glad because God saw in me something more than failure and brokenness. I’m glad because He loved me and saw something more than a “throwaway.”
“We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV).
*Please note that this account of the origins of the Michelangelo’s block of stone has been partly fictionalized: tradition has it that the city of Florence gave the blemished and broken block of marble to Michelangelo when it commissioned him to sculpt the statue of David. The stone had allegedly been lying discarded and unwanted in a church yard for more than thirty years!
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 22 ½ years. He is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at email@example.com.