A masterpiece can’t make itself

I’ve just been handed an intense copywriting project that requires me to dig into the recesses of my mind for plumbing engineering specs I haven’t thought about in two years. It’s going to take a whole day of fierce concentration to get everything done. I get started, and before long, I’m deeply submerged in the realm of copper tubing, sealing elements, and recirculation systems.

And my phone rings. Or somebody knocks on my office door. Or somebody needs to ask me a question in general.

Snap. Just like that. My train of thought derails. I lose the sentences I’m crafting. And the beautiful, concise paragraph I’d been forming in my brain disintegrates, never to be seen again.

Yes, I’m exaggerating (but only slightly).

I hate being interrupted, and I don’t always handle it with grace. I’m better about it than I used to be (experience is a hard teacher), but I still struggle.

When I’m working, I get so deep into the zone of my thoughts that when someone jerks me out of those thoughts, I feel disoriented and confused. It takes me a few moments to realign myself so I can even communicate. Then, once I’ve answered the question or provided the solution, I have to find a way to jump back into the project. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. Either way, I probably won’t find my way back to exactly where I was before.

And that’s okay. Part of adulting is learning how to pick up the pieces of your shattered concentration and keep moving forward. But when you have to change directions halfway through a project, often, your project won’t turn out like you originally intended.

Have you ever considered how God feels when we interrupt Him?

In Ephesians 2:10, God calls us His workmanship. That word means masterpiece. My life, and your life, are all part of God’s brilliant, beautiful, perfect plan. He’s designed a life and a future just for you and just for me, based on who we really are and what He created us to do.

We’re God’s masterpieces. We’re His works of art. But it will take our lifetimes on Earth to get us to the place where we’re complete. Want to know why? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can certainly speak for myself.

I get in God’s way.

I interrupt His plans with my own actions and half-brained attempts at controlling my own life. And while He can take the broken threads of my life and weave a beautiful piece of art from them, how much more beautiful would it have been if I hadn’t interfered in the first place?

Yes, God is Almighty, and there’s nothing I can do to screw up my life to the point where He can’t redeem it. But what if I hadn’t stuck my fingers into the frosting to begin with?

ephesians-2-10I often think of God as a sculptor, and I see myself as a shapeless block of marble, unyielding, stubborn, and not worth much at face value. And God, in His infinite patience and wisdom and artistry, chip-chip-chips away at my rough spots with His chisel and hammer. He looks at the ugly corners of my life and sees something majestic and beautiful, and He has the power to make something amazing from it.

But it isn’t always a fun process. Sometimes it hurts.

When I interrupt Him and try to fix myself, I only end up making more rough spots that He’ll ultimately have to chisel away. When I try to take control of my own life, I make more work for Him.

I go down roads I shouldn’t. I listen to people who are wrong. I look to idols to tell me what I should look like or how I should act. And instead of submitting to the design that He has for my life, I start trying to chisel myself into a shape that He’ll accept. But have you ever seen marble try to chisel itself? Even if it could, it wouldn’t turn out pretty.

A masterpiece can’t make itself.

God sees me. He’s the only one who really can see me. He knows my flaws and my failures. He knows my rough spots. But He can look beyond all those blemishes and see my true value. Since He’s the only one who can see it, He’s the only one who can bring it out. He knows what needs to be cut out of my life in order to let the best of me shine through.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

God is more gracious about being interrupted than I am, and I can take a lesson from that. I can learn to be kinder when I react to interruptions. I can learn to be persistent and keep trying even when my thoughts and plans are derailed. And maybe I will learn to not interrupt God with my own feeble attempts at control.

He’s the artist. I’m the masterpiece. And I can’t wait to see what He’s creating.

Duck splashing

Masterpieces don’t happen overnight

Culture in 21st century America is all about immediate gratification. We want what we think will make us happy, and we want it right now. No waiting. No delay. No hesitation. Now. And when we don’t get what we want now, we feel deprived or mistreated.
That’s how we approach God even, sadly. We pray and ask Him for the things we want, and when He doesn’t answer that prayer, we get angry at Him. Or we tell ourselves He doesn’t exist because if He did exist, He would give us everything we’ve asked for. Well, there are some verses in James that deal with that, but that’s not my focus this morning.
Duck splashing

Duck splashing - Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

 Today’s verse is Ephesians 2:10.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

First off, if God is calling us His masterpiece, I want to know what a masterpiece is. When I think of the word masterpiece, I think of art. I think of a portrait or a landscape or something that a painter spent his life creating and perfecting. For a composer, it would be his magnum opus. A masterpiece. A work so incredible it can’t be duplicated and it defines the creator’s entire career.

That God would call me His masterpiece is stunning. Because I don’t feel like a work of art, especially not at this time in the morning. I have a million things wrong with me. I have all sorts of issues and problems. So how can God consider me a work of art at all, let alone his masterpiece?

Well, I have some personal insight on masterpieces. As a writer, I have dozens of masterpieces. Or at least, they will be. I just have to finish them. These novels that are sitting around have the potential to be the greatest work I’ve ever done. I just have to spend a little more time working on them.

A masterpiece doesn’t happen overnight. Rarely. Even The Messiah took days to write, although it marked the end of Handel’s composing and his life. A masterpiece takes time and effort and sacrifice. Creating a masterpiece is a process.

But an artist doesn’t see things the way others do. An artist can see what a block of marble or a canvas or a stack of paper has the potential to become. And an artist knows that he is creating a masterpiece even though he just started the process. And even though it looks like he’s just making a mess or that he’s just wasting time, that artist knows what he’s doing because he has a plan. And if you ask an artist what they’re doing, they’ll tell you that they’re working on their masterpiece (unless they have a sense of humor, and then they’ll tell you they’re taming a monster). Because in their eyes, that project — even uncompleted — is still a masterpiece.

We Christians in 2012 America want God to finish His process on our time. We want Him to finish painting or sculpting or writing or whatever it is that He’s doing in our lives now so we can move on to other things. It’s uncomfortable. When God is working on us, it’s painful. I mean, if a block of marble could feel, wouldn’t you think it would squeal every time that chisel and hammer make contact?

But God doesn’t work on our time, thankfully. He sees the big picture. And He has a plan. And His process will produce a work of art that can never be duplicated. When God is done with us, we really will be masterpieces. But getting to that point will take time.

I’m including a link to a YouTube video by the Skit Guys called “God’s Chisel” because this morning’s verse made me think about it.