Sculpture or Bonsai?

It was an interesting experience to go along to a new church housegroup, discussing the notes I’d written. A good experience, it can certainly help me reflect on what I write and what I leave out. That’s for another day, however, as I’ve been set off by a thought that was shared by someone in the group.

The image of God as a master craftsman, shaping and forming our lives and identity was raised, especially of God as a sculptor, carving a statue out of a block of wood or stone. As he chips away at the block, bits are removed and lost, there is the idea that it might seem painful, but the end result is beautiful. But there is also an idea that I dislike mixed up in it, that of a ‘perfect version’ of me that God can see beneath the surface of what I currently am.

I think I react poorly to the sense that this ‘perfect version’ in a stone statue is a fixed, completed state, that no more change can happen when it is reached and that it is singular and must be frozen in time. I don’t have that kind of image of being – I want to image that the person God wants me to be will still be developing and growing. When I think of heaven, it is a place of activity and life – a place where I do and learn – it is somewhere that there is still development.

The image of topiary or bonsai came to me as I was thinking about it. There is still the exact same sense of bits being removed to make a better and healthier sculpture – in fact the image of pruning is thoroughly scriptural. There is also the sense that only a master artisan can see the potentiality contained in a rough form and shape it to what it could become, but it comes with a recognition that when the tree achieves its maturity it is still not finished. It will continue to be shaped, pruned and guided into more perfection. It can even be shaped into new forms if the gardener wants that. It is organic, alive, always growing and changing.

I know I am far from perfect or reaching maturity, but it gives me a glimmer of hope to know that being alive is the only way to reach it. A dead tree is no longer shaped or pruned, it’s thrown out. So when I feel I’ve gone backwards, not made progress, I am still growing, and though the resultant pruning stings, it is essential.

I may not recognise maturity when (if) I reach it, but that’s OK, so long as I keep growing and I let the master continue to shape me as he wants to