It’s funny the things that you remember. We remember team victories, but only some team victories. I always remember the stupid things that I have done; but I also remember some of the times when someone thanked me for helping them. We might remember where we were when something of significance happened. I remember in second grade when we were sent home due to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I remember being called into my boss’s office in 1986 to watch the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up on frequent television replays. I remember where I was on September 11, 2011 when we found out about the World Trade Center’s collapse.
For some reason I remember a scene from the movie, “The Agony and the Ecstasy” (I had to look this up so see if I remembered correctly– the movie was made in 1965). In this scene Pope Julius (played by actor Rex Harrison) shouted up to sculptor-turned-painter Michelangelo (played by the great Charlton Heston) with great impatience something like, “When will you make an end?” He wondered when Michelangelo would finish the work painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Pope came past often in successive scenes in the movie as I remember. And each time Michelangelo-Heston replied with some mystery and aloofness, “When it is finished!”
The fact is that while the Pope was leading military campaigns to recapture Papal territories, he was also financing this massive project. Michelangelo spent over four years (July 1508 to October 1512) painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Unlike the movie, he did not paint it all while lying on his back (I found a site that separated the fact from the movie’s fiction – http://arthistory.about.com/od/famous_paintings/a/sischap_ceiling.htm). Nor did he paint it all alone. But it was his grand design, and the sketches and cartoons for the great series of paintings were all drawn by him. It was pain-staking work; but in the end it became a thing of beauty, perhaps one of the greatest works of art in the history of the world.
Often when I remember something from my past, it is known to me but often not to others. So perhaps if my wife were to ask me when I would be finished painting some trim in the hallway, I might say, “When it is finished,” echoing that old movie and thinking of Michelangelo. But all my wife sees is the trim in the hallway unfinished.
In our experience as Christians, God is working behind the scenes to work at his perfect plan for our lives. He sees our lives like Michelangelo saw the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, beauty waiting to be revealed. When we like Pope Julius call out to the Father and ask, “When will you make an end?” often it seems that the Father is quiet, seemingly distant and aloof. His work of reshaping our lives after years of sin is mysterious. The fact is that the work of God in our lives is also is pain-staking work. But in the end, as with the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, our lives become a thing of beauty, perhaps the greatest work of creation in the history of the world (He looked over all that He had made and saw that it was very good – Genesis 1:31).
Moses’ parents saw his rare beauty (Hebrews 11:23 WEY) and took the risk to hide him from those seeking to kill the Hebrew infants. Yet it took God 40 years of letting Moses run; and another 40 years in the wilderness leading the Israelites to draw out the greatness hidden within Moses. And even after some 80 years of crafting, Moses’ anger got the best of him, and he missed seeing in person the Promised Land to which he had directed God’s people. All that time crafting this magnificent man, yet there was still more work to be done.
It’s easy to say from my view here in the cheap seats that we should not rush the work of God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13 RSV). Again Paul writes in the same place that he was …”confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 RSV). Call out to the Father about the end, but trust in His plan to craft and fine-tune and paint with precision this work of beauty, drawing out of you only the finest masterpiece – fit for the Master, that is. You may not know much about the timing and delivery of the final product. But you’ll surely find some things to remember along the way. I trust, looking back, that these will be fond memories for you some day.