The art of the incarnation

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I’ve loved reading the facebook posts of an author-friend as she’s been editing the manuscript for her latest book. She treats each character differently:

“One of them might–if she’s lucky–get a yell of “Incoming!” from me before I demolish one of her scenes; another gets treated very gently with lots of slow work.”

Her process intrigues me, and helps me understand: a huge part of art is learning to know your characters and understand the nature of your material. Learning to work with rather than against. Not to conquer or overcome, or to reshape it against its nature, but to listen to it, learn from it, honor its uniqueness in the way you work with it.

Watching her has given me a picture of the way God works with us, his poiema1—differently in each life, but never randomly, always honoring the nature of our being.

“Let me teach you, because I am . . . gentle. . . . For my yoke fits perfectly. . .” (Matt 11:28-30 NLT)

I listen to Israel’s refrain: “Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter.” (Isaiah 64:8).

We know how this works. The most sensitive and skilled sculptor we can imagine knows his material almost perfectly. He has worked with it, shaped it, paid attention to how it responds. He knows how to work with it to bring out the best in it.

But he only ever knows his material from the outside. Even the best musician doesn’t become music; the best painter doesn’t become paint.

And this is where the analogy gets turned on its head, as every analogy does when God’s love is involved. The God who knew everything perfectly, who not only created us but created the clay from which He shaped us—the God in whom we exist—wasn’t content with even that degree of closeness to his material. He wanted to know us from the inside. He wanted us to know that He knew us from the inside: knew what it was to be tired and hungry and sick, to need a bath and have his mouth water at the smell of baking bread and long for the comfort of a hug. He wanted us to know that, knowing us, He loved us. And so the potter became clay, the poet the poiema. God became flesh.

 

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1For we are God’s poiema. . .” (Eph 2:10)

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