I spent yesterday putting together self-assembly furniture from IKEA. This morning my mind feels as scattered as all the separate parts that promised one day they would become a TV stand after accomplishing 32 different tasks. I wonder if the detail in the church pictured was as complicated ?To be fair to IKEA all the parts were there, and the assembly diagrams were reasonably clear. The TV stand now 'stands' and its drawers open and close with a satisfying click. So all is well: but my brain knows it has been through a severe workout and for most of the day has been lying down!
There is not a lot of room for creativity when involved in self-assembly. The parts are shaped to fit together in one way and one way alone. The holes are pre-drilled to receive bolts of a particular length and diameter. The pieces make one thing, providing you correctly ascend the 32 steps to completion. We know - if all goes well - what the finished item will look like.
Our own making is more creative, with greater room for the unexpected. What sort of person are we are becoming and how can the different pieces of our experience possibly fit together to become some form of integrated whole? There is no picture to work to, and - I believe - no inevitable result. For one thing, new parts continue to come in: a significant person comes into our life; an unexpected event shakes the foundations of the future we imagined.
Rather than the spirit of a constructor who will rigidly follow instructions and can only succeed if all the parts are there, what human beings need is the spirit of an artist: someone who can not only cope with the unexpected but relish the opportunity to create something fresh, living, whole and beautiful from what might seem unpromising raw material. That is the spirit - I imagine - that enabled the medieval creators of decorated stone arches and timber roofs to flourish. They worked with living materials, uneven in their texture and form. They had an idea of what they were making and they knew it must be functional, but they also had the freedom and boldness to make something original and pleasing to the eye.
We are all of us artists, made in the image and likeness of God who is our co-creator. We are not pre-fabricated; our experiences are not pre-set to bring about a fixed result. Instead God desires to work with us in weaving the stuff of our experience into the ever-evolving mystery of our becoming. We have the freedom to experiment. Our life might go this way or that way; we have a say in the matter.
There is a shape to human living: free, not fearful; open, not closed; generous of heart, not mean in spirit. As creator, God goes on desiring and working for this way of our flourishing. But God does so as artist, not constructor; and as co-worker with us rather than controller.
What will you become? It might be a surprise to you. Might it also be a surprise to God?