|David. Michelangelo, circa. 1501-1504. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)|
As the story goes, the famous sculptor stood in his studio and stared at the massive block of marble for hours before he ever took a chisel to it.
It had been cut from the Carrara quarries in Tuscany and painstakingly transported back to the city of Florence, where it would be sculpted whole, with no pieces of marble added and the block not fractured to be used for smaller works of art. Instead, the block would become the commissioned statue of a prophet and would adorn the top of the Florence cathedral. But though initially begun by sculptor Agostino di Duccio, the five meter block of marble had been considered just mediocre in quality and the project was abandoned soon after.
It lay unused for the next ten years.
Accomplished sculptor number two came along, Antonio Rossellino. But like others had, he declared the marble to be impossible to work with and moved on to other things. And so it sat. Discarded. Unused. Unnoticed? Clearly unsuitable. Collecting dust. Perhaps in a corner while others walked by it for another thirty years. Anything this block might have been lay untapped – that is, until a twenty-five year-old sculptor from Caprese came along. This young artist looked at the porous piece of marble that others had deemed unsuitable and instead, saw something of magic. He saw potential.
Artist Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (known as simply, Michelangelo) spent 1501-1504 sculpting this block of imperfect marble into the Renaissance masterpiece known as David. And though the sculpture is amazing for so many reasons, I get caught up in wondering what was going through Michelangelo’s mind before he even picked up his tools. What in the world did he envision out of that clump of marble? How could he possible look past the exterior and see the potential buried within?
The thought that genius could be hidden in something that others overlook is yesterday’s work of art and today’s modern Cinderella story. It’s the product of a master that toils with hands so carefully practiced, that the vision of what could be suddenly, almost miraculously comes into existence. And so it’s not the work of art that becomes the true masterpiece. Rather, it’s the act of chiseling that holds the real magic.
It’s genius yet unchiseled.
I love this story. I heard it years ago in an art history class in college and was captured by the parallel between Michelangelo’s vision in the marble and what Christ does in our lives. We’re imperfect too. We’re porous and weak. We’re sometimes overlooked. Unnoticed. Unyielding and impossible to work with at times. We’re cut from the quarry all broken and bruised, and spend the better part of our lives without realizing our true potential.But as any master artist does, He picks up the chisel and with a clink! here and a chink! there, He begins to form beauty out of us.
I often wonder what I could have done better, said better, sinned less and loved more – basically, I stare at the marble of my exterior and fail to see the potential if I’d just hand the chisel over to Jesus. No more worrying about that sin from so long ago. No fretting over what I said. Or did. Or how I judged and spoke bitterly and yes, how I didn’t love. I think about potential. I think about Christ and how I need so badly to be unchiseled, only to be molded by Him.
Wherever your road takes you today, I hope it’s with a full heart. I hope it’s with a chin held high though you may be afraid, or hurting, or judged, or feeling the full weight of past mistakes. He wants you to know that help is on the way. You’re not ignored with Jesus. You’re not shoved up in a corner while the world walks by without a care. You’re not mediocre. You, dear child, are valued; you were bought with the ultimate price. You’re unchiseled — genius waiting in the wings.
You’re marble in the hands of the master, and that is a beautiful thing.