We live in the 'inbetween times'...such a familiar Christian expression of our state of being, we have to be careful that it doesn't lose its significance. Ministry-shaping is joyous and yet painful and I think that there is some relief to be felt in the fact that the shape will never be finished. When I was a child, I was absolutely enchanted by a story called 'The magic paintbrush' in which a beautifully drawn Chinese boy in traditional dress was given a paintbrush by his artistic and sagacious uncle. The boy began to paint the most beautiful pictures, watercolours of the things which he saw around him, beautiful birds and creatures. As he put the last brush mark in place there was this kind of agonising joy come sorrow, as the bird would come alive in his picture and fly freely away, leaving the boy only with the memory of what he had painted. He decided to leave some of his paintings just slightly unfinished so that they could attract the attention of curious onlookers by being exhibited in a gallery.
We are exhibited and unfinished and there is something very painful about this. We are not quite free whilst we are earthed, because we are not all that we could be, we are free in Jesus, yes, but this freedom is still yet to be fully realised because we are not free from those little hooks which fix us to the wall and we are still awaiting the last brush-stroke which will be given to us when we are glorified.
I have just sat, this morning, listening to a very eloquent man, not bashful about being humble, encouraging in us a humility and an acknowledgement of our unfinishedness which is freeing in itself.
David Runcorn had us meditate on a sculpture of the half-completed Adam which hangs in the north porticoe of the Chartres Cathedral south-west of Paris. In it Adam has his head in God's lap and Adam is not complete. He is being formed. The hands are those of a midwfe, for allegedly they are in exactly the correct position, and they cup Adam's head as a midwife might in delivery of a child. God here is patient and unhurried. He doesn't work under pressure to bring forth the finished article. He has all the time in the world!
We are part of something still emerging – it is unfinished. Adam is a becomer and the sculptor presents Adam as only half emerged into life – half-way between dust and glory and life and death and heaven and earth.
1 John 3:21How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.
We are not human beings - we are human-becomers!