The Renaissance produced some of the most famous artists and works of art of all time: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, the Sistine Chapel, and many more. But few are more well-known than Michelangelo’s David. Giorgio Vasari, who wrote a biography on Michelangelo, said this about David, “When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelangelo finish it.”1 When David was complete and shown to the members of the board who had commissioned the sculpture, they described it as, “far too perfect,” but it wasn’t always that way.
Inconvenience in the Courtyard
Twenty-six-year-old Michelangelo began working on the marble block that would eventually become David in 1501, but he wasn’t the first artist to work on this particular block of marble. In 1464 work on the marble began, but the original artist never finished it. In 1475 another artist began working on the same block, but he too could never create anything from it. The two artists both cited the same issue with the marble: it had too many imperfections and was too messy of a project to carry out. After being rejected twice, the block sat in an open courtyard for decades. It would be nearly forty years before Michelangelo accepted the challenge of working with the marble.
The work that Michelangelo put into David is the stuff of legends. Michelangelo worked in secret in the courtyard. He worked in the pouring rain in sopping wet clothes. He didn’t eat much, and he slept very little. When he did sleep, he would often lie down next to the statue, fully clothed, working at random and at all hours of the night. Three years later, in 1504, David was finished. The details of his anatomy blew spectators away. The veins in his hands, the soul in his eyes, the curls in his hair, the muscles flexed in his thigh — Michelangelo had made a masterpiece.
David’s story started off like many of ours — rough.
He spent some time with the wrong crowd, had relationships with a few artists where things didn’t go well. He was abandoned, and nobody wanted him. Who would want to invest in something that was riddled with imperfections and flaws? He was too big to throw away and too ugly to be made beautiful. What changed?
One of the greatest artists of all time got his hands on that mess and turned it into a masterpiece.
He grabbed his mallet and chisel and went to work. The way this unwanted, oversized block of marble went from mess to masterpiece had nothing to do with the block itself. Michelangelo could have carved David from any other block and it would have been beautiful, but could any other artist have carved David? I don’t think so.
God doesn’t need much. Your greatest ability is availability.
If you want to be what Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) calls “God’s masterpiece,” you don’t have to come to Him with certain levels of talent or ability; you simply need to come to Him. Surrender yourself to Him. I can’t be who God is creating me to be if I only surrender parts of me. I have to hand over everything, even what I may see as imperfections or parts of my life that I would prefer to remain untouched. What God creates isn’t common. He is in the business of sculpting Davids. When it looks like no more moves can be made, that’s precisely when God moves the most.
In the seemingly impossible, God’s glory shines.
Today you can still see the statue of David in Florence, Italy, where millions of people visit it each year, but there was a period of time when David was merely a massive slab of marble, and not just a slab of marble — but one that was considered worthless. Millions of people who visit the masterpiece each year may know nothing about the story of the mess it once was. You know what’s interesting, though? The mess doesn’t detract from David’s story; it attracts us. I enjoy art, and the Renaissance fascinates me. I read up on this story in college, and it has always stuck with me. I’ve shared this story of David on countless occasions. When I tell people about it, I get the same response: a deeper appreciation for the work of art that it is today. Ironically, in our own lives, it’s the exact opposite.
We don’t want to share the messy parts of our stories. We have this preconceived notion that if we do, people will look down on us and think less of us. But that’s the issue: too much focus on us. The fulcrum of our story isn’t about how gross our mess was, but how glorious the Artist is. That’s where everything turns around. Yes, the messiness in our lives is nothing we’re proud of, but it’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of either.
God took away our shame and clothed us in righteousness, the same way Michelangelo chiseled away David’s flaws and sculpted him into something beautiful.
We know what kind of mess David was, and because of that, the masterpiece David became isn’t a testament to how amazing he is; it’s a testament to how masterful Michelangelo was. We were a mess, and we still have messes in our lives, but God chose our block, even with its flaws, and He is still sculpting us — from a mess to a masterpiece.
- “Michelangelo’s David: Admire World’s Greatest Sculpture at Accademia Gallery,” Guide to Accademia Gallery, http://www .accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-david/.
Excerpted with permission from Your Mess Matters by Luke Lezon, copyright Luke Lezon.
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Are you a mess? Then you’re in a perfect position for your story to be made “far too perfect” by our God who is the ultimate sculptor-creator. How have you seen that to be true in your life? Come share with us on our blog. We want to hear your story! ~ Devotionals Daily