“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”
--Dr. Alexis Carrel
I am fissured. Each tap, each scrape, and each rasp comes at the risk of crumbling. There are veins of strength flowing beside those of weakness; sometimes shaded so that the eye cannot see nor the hand feel where I am weakest. Will I emerge or will I be resigned to dust?
Betimes, the stone is smoothed, a hand gliding over its surface with infinite care, reverent awe in each touch. Other times there is the harsh crack of wood against metal and slabs of the whole are severed; cut away, never to be rejoined. There are moments of darkness and anguish, fragile marble crushed beneath a frenetic assault.
At a moment, the hewn rock reflects an enduring beauty, a grace that stems from origins unknown. At others, there is the bladed jut of marble, clawed furrows in the streaked, impure surface. It is both masterpiece and monster beneath the twins of sun and shade.
I once believed it was the Master’s hand alone that shaped me. I believed that every nick, every polished gleam was that of His infinite wisdom. I find myself thinking that the Master is, at times, a helpless spectator.
Those times that I am sheared--rock broken to slide away from me and shatter--those times, my hand bears the chisel. Those times, the hammer is wielded with a force so painful it cannot—could never be—His. In that hour, light rends a bruised sky and the torturous thunder is but an echo of struck stone.
It is after the image has been battered by my own hand that the tool is pried from my fingers. It is while I am bowed beneath a weight of my own infliction, the Master toils through an endless night.
In that blushing dawn, I must confront truth. There isn’t a way to hide from the destruction. A despairing thought flickers, What can be left? There is nothing that can be shaped from this broken heap of stone. I raise my eyes, struck to have shamed that great artisan with my imperfect hand.
Before me, emerging from the slashed peaks of my mistakes, is my face. Filtered light dances over a smoothed cheek and a forever-frozen tendril of hair curling over my shoulder. An arm is outstretched, elegant sinews flexed beneath flawless skin. Stone yields to flesh, coaxed from rudimentary elements until it becomes more than veined marble—it becomes both memory and masterpiece. It is more than I am. It is a vision of myself more whole in its unfinished state than I have ever been in a lifetime.
Where I cleaved stone, He made way for the curved slant of my shoulder. Where I scored with the slip of my hand, He smoothed the ridges of my brow. Where I had weakened it most, He gave it strength. Every imperfection vanished under the loving guide of His hand.
In the morning light, He toils there still.
It is only after the harsh planes of my efforts--my rages--are transformed that He stands back. He wraps my fingers around the tools and I protest. What if I should destroy what He has wrought? What if, this time, there can be no way to heal what blow I may deal this soft stone?
With the dust of my reshaping on His skin, He places His hand over mine. “It isn’t finished.”
As morning spills through glass, banishing the last vestiges of darkness, I stand small before the enormity of my future. It is evident, the changes I have made. Yet, like a mantle of warmth, His changes envelope the burgeoning statue and make it beautiful.
I am frightened as I lift my hand to begin anew. Much of the shape of myself is buried beneath the marble. Despite my wreckage, despite His healing of it, there is still so much to do. Though I fear I may destroy what He has saved, I set my hand back against the warming stone. It is not too late to make something of it.
“It isn’t finished.”