There is a unique relationship that exists between the artist and the material, between the creator and the created; the more resistant the material, the more difficult the maker’s task. Works we call ‘Masterpieces’ are merely reflections of the artist’s skill, discipline and vision (which is, incidentally, my wife’s definition of art). The makers of these pieces have ‘taken the materials captive’, bringing them into a place of obedience.
A new friend of mine is a five-year-old boy named Rocco, a lover of life whose wonder has not (yet) been robbed. A few days before Rocco’s 5th birthday, in a fit of passion and excitement, he exclaimed to his mother, “Mom, did you know that God made a man out of dirt!!!” Let that sink in a moment. The same fingers that would later write the law in stone formed a man from earth, the crowning achievement of divine creativity, a creation with the capacity to create. From that first man, made out of dirt, to the present man, this truth is evident- We were made to make. And, as Andy Crouch states in his latest work, Culture Making, “Culture is what we make of the world.”
John Holt, educator and author, made this observation:
“Very young children seem to have what could be called an Instinct of Workmanship. We tend not to see it, because they are unskillful and their materials crude. But watch the loving care with which a little child smoothes off a sand cake and shapes a mud pie. They want to make it as well as they can, not to please someone else, but to satisfy themselves.” (How Children Learn, August 2, 1961 entry).
Thousands of years have passed since the first ‘dirt man’ and, for reasons unbeknownst to many, the Creator God still desires to be in relationship with His creation. In the Hebrew Scriptures there is a word some scholars believe to be one of the most important words in the Bible- Chesed. It is, as Michael Card told me, a word that almost defies literal translation. Lexical Aids to the Old Testament says this:
“The term is closely related to the forgiveness of sins. Chesed does not necessarily involve a covenant, nor does it necessarily mean fidelity to a covenant. It is more the attitude of love which contains mercy.”
Whether we like it, or even believe it, we are the workmanship of a loving Creator who continues to shape and fashion us in spite of our resistance. The only explanation to this mystery I can find is Chesed.