One of the blessings of having been a pastor was the honour of being invited into the life journey of so many people - from birth to death and every season in-between. Like a special feature on a DVD you are privileged to have a behind the scenes look into the depths of their world as they invite you in, confide in you, trust you and choose to make you a safe place.
I had another one of these opportunities recently as I conducted the funeral of a lady dear to us who passed from earth to heaven at the age of ninety-four. As I prepared, I reflected on the dozens of funerals I have taken and this lady's life in particular, and I realised once again that from birth to death, we are all seeking to make sense of life and relationships; to find meaning as the hand of God shapes our lives.
In the early years of our marriage, my wife used to create a lot of tapestries. Sitting across from her, what I saw from my viewpoint was a tangled mess of various coloured threads hanging from the back of what she was creating in that moment. As it progressed she would sometimes turn it around and reveal a picture, a work of art in progress. The tangled mess of threads that conveyed no clarity suddenly become a picture or in many cases, words – a message - that now made sense.
Life can often feel like a tangled array of various coloured threads that from our perspective makes no sense. We puzzle over the view from our side. It can be hard to see the hand of God ‘working all things together for good’ when we are a work in progress. But in Ephesians 2, we see that from His perspective we are a work of grace, having received life from Him because of His grace – undeserved, unearnt and unmerited.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 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.
He is the one working and weaving His grace into us and through the threads of our life as He creates masterpiece after masterpiece. We are never to be working for grace, but rather we live and function from a position of grace – of knowing we are forgiven and beloved. We have received this grace through faith and faith is not only belief in God and His grace, faith expresses itself through trust. I believe in Him, therefore I trust Him. I trust Him to make in and through me – His masterpiece.
In verse ten of this passage we are referred to as God’s ‘workmanship’ (NIV) or ‘masterpiece’ (NLT). This rich Greek word poiema is where we derive our English word poem from. In New Testament times and in Greek culture, this word was used to refer not just to a poem, but to any piece of art – whether a painting, a story, a poem, a statue or architecture. God is the ultimate Creator and artist who can take a life like mine and yours, fashion it, shape it, form it, weave together every thread and create a ‘masterpiece’ that he puts on display as what I call a ‘trophy of grace’ in His Father cabinet to display to the whole world what He can do in you and through you. He can make our life a work of art.
As we consider this wonderful word, we ask ourselves if my life is becoming His masterpiece, as a poem – what is the rhythm and rhyme in my journey that others can be inspired by? As a story – what will people read, what do I want the closing chapters to culminate in? As a painting – what colours and image splashes across the canvas of my life that could inspire others to see the Father’s handiwork?
Two important lessons I have learnt over the years as God works in me are – firstly, when I don’t understand what His hand is doing, when things are painful and perplexing as He is shaping my life, I must resist the temptation to interpret Him through the filter of these experiences and learn to filter these experiences through the truth of who He is as revealed in His Word, and ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ. If I seek to interpret Him and His works through my pain it results in a distorted image of Him.
Secondly, I need to learn to be able to pause in the everyday routine of life to catch a glimpse of His handiwork, to see and celebrate the progress as I become His masterpiece.
‘Just as the hand, held before the eye, can hide the tallest mountain, so the routine of everyday life can keep us from seeing the vast radiance and the secret wonders that fill the world’
The great artist Michelangelo was one day chipping away at a block of marble and a passer-by asked him what he was doing. He replied, ‘I am setting an angel free’. He saw in a cold block of marble, with the eye of an artist, something no one else could see. The Father is such an artist. He sees in us as he chips away creating His masterpiece, what no one else can possibly see - and so He sets us free.
One of my favourite pass-times as a kid was writing. I used to make my own books and write poetry on our old type-writer. Thankfully both my writing and technology have come a long way!
It is my prayer that these posts from both myself and guest contributors encourage you to embrace the season that you are in and to live it with purpose for God's glory.
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