In 1501, a young sculptor found a huge piece of flawed Carrara marble in a cathedral courtyard in Florence, Italy. Deemed unusable because of imperfections, the marble had been untouched and unchanged for almost one hundred years. When asked to do something with the mineral rock, the young man measured the block and noted the location and size of the flaws.
For three years, the sculptor chiseled and shaped the marble skillfully. In his mind, he envisioned the final statuette. He calculated how he would discard the flawed areas, aggrandize the impeccably marbled stone, and fashion a figure out of the best of the rock. Finally, an 18-foot towering image of a young shepherd boy was unveiled. The masterpiece was a bigger-than-life representation of David, the illustrious shepherd who became king of Israel.
Michelangelo was renowned for his art during his lifetime and his fame continues throughout the generations. He is reported to have said: “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
Michelangelo possessed an amazing gift: to see the greatness within, to view the potential untapped, to embrace the prospect available. He demonstrated an incredible character trait: to chip persistently at the obstacles, to chisel relentlessly at the unusable, to labor patiently against the opposition. He received an honored reward: to bring reality to the dream, to create substance out of hope, to release freedom to the vision.
Each of us may have a little Michelangelo within. The seamstress who envisions the dress when viewing the bolt of fabric, the carpenter who sees the finished piece of furniture in the unfinished boards, the father who sees a full-grown son in the tiny infant in his arms: all of these are examples of that sculptor’s spirit. Anyone who refuses to discard the inspiration in spite of possible flaws has the potential to create a masterpiece.
In his lifetime, Michelangelo was often called Il Divino, meaning the divine one. Undoubtedly, the name was attributed to him for his craftsmanship and excellence of artistry. Whatever the exact origin of the title, the attribute of divine is probably nowhere more clearly personified than through the ability to release beauty from the flawed and rocky structures of life.
In the beginning God created the magnificent cosmos from a condition the Bible calls ‘without form and void.’ The nation of Israel was sculpted from slaves while the Savior of the whole world had lowly beginnings in a manger. Joseph went from prison to palace and Elisha transitioned from farmer to renown prophet. And, most astonishingly of all, the Bible affirms that the average man can be changed from sinner to saint by the amazing grace of the divine.
Each of us has a rock before us and a dream within. Each of us has the ability to release that dream through persistent chiseling. Each of us can create our own masterpiece, if we will but chip away at the cold, stony, and unrelenting obstacles to reveal the masterpiece inside.