A Personal Work of Art
By Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”—Jeremiah 1:5
31 Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. Daniel 2:31-33 (NIV)
Don’t ask me how the question came to my mind… I don’t know. But it occurred to me, what if I had to make a statue of myself recording the various epochs of my life based solely upon the artifacts of that life? What if I had to show my life history, my values, my personality only through these artifacts and this statue? What would it look like… what artifacts would be included?
For me—the statue would include lots of pairs of old running shoes, a purple Schwinn Sting-ray Bicycle, a Zenith, black and white television showing programs like Captain Kangaroo, Adam 12, Emergency, M*A*S*H, and The Dukes of Hazard. For music icons…instead of record albums, eight-track or cassette tapes… it would probably have a couple of copies of the old (1960) Baptist Hymnal (I just didn’t listen to that much music outside of church). There would be lots of books built into the statue… a copy of Moby Dick, The Chronicles of Narnia, and lots of old Walter Farley “Black Stallion” novels. More present-day choices would include several action-adventure novels… the Jack Ryan series or the CORPS novels with some John Grisham thrown in beside. And, of course, there would be a couple of leather bound Bibles, the Barclay commentaries, a few text books, and several Lencioni books on leadership. Add to that a stole or two, a podium of some sort and some communion sets and the statue is looking pretty complete. Still, there would need to be some St. Louis Cardinals memorabilia and old softball equipment, as well a few select hand tools. And in recent years a few trinkets from the travels I’ve taken visiting churches, pastors and missionaries while learning about and (I hope) assisting in creating some of the global impact of our Baptist mission and ministry work would need to be added.
Like the image of the statue in our scripture, these things talk about not only different ages of my life but also different aspects and characteristics of who I am, who I was and what I hope to become. But they don’t tell the whole story! They are not me, but they are only a part of me. And while some of this describes me, they still leave out the personal relationships which have really shaped and molded who I am, guided the very selection and choice of these artifacts and most of all the choices I have made to make my life what it is now. The choices were mine, but they were heavily influenced by those I love and who love and have loved me.
But even this still does not take into account God’s guidance in this process…God introducing at opportune times the very thing I have needed to become more fully the unique creation God wants and is creating me to be. But often I fight God like a particular piece of clay fights the potter. I want to become something apart from that which God is shaping me to be. I don’t want to be a prophet but a king.
So, God continues to work the clay, hoping it will become pliant, using the tools of this world and of His people, hoping I will allow myself to be molded into the unique image only God can create. And perhaps one day, I will yield to this shaping. And even without fully yielding, God still is able to make a useful and useable creation that testifies to the skill of the Creator.
Prayer: Dear God, let me not have feet of hard clay that can be shattered, but let me be clay that can be molded and modeled by you. Allow who I am, to be defined by you. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran