“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14).
My life has undergone some major renovations in the past seven years. I’ve been seeking care for my mental health, figuring out how to live independently, and learning to rest in God’s love and approval. And I’ve made the decision to no longer chemically straighten my hair — a huge deal in the African American community.
Growing in these ways has not been an easy process, and I’m well aware it’s far from being over. Still, I believe God graciously gives me glimpses into the growth I’m making.
He wants me to be free from fear, discouragement and all of the things that keep me in bondage from His love. Through His work in my life, I’m finally becoming who my Creator made me to be. And that feels incredible.
There’s a quote from the artist Michelangelo describing the process of sculpting. He talks about how he “chisels away” at the marble to reveal the sculpture within. He stated, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”
Friends, God is sculpting us. The Divine Artist is chiseling away at our “superfluous material” to bring out a beautiful image resembling the likeness of His son, Jesus.
A journal entry I wrote while a junior in college reveals I wasn’t too enthusiastic about that idea. How on earth would I ever be able to be like Jesus?And did I actually even want to take that on? I was all too aware of the challenges that would bring, and I had some trust issues with the Artist — after all, being sculpted is not an easy process.
But God goes through a “sculpting” process with all His children. He chisels us by sanctifying the parts of our souls that are in rebellion against Him and His laws. He permits circumstances we would rather not be in, but He allows them to chisel away at our impatience, self-reliance, fear or mistrust of Him.
At times it is be painful, and other times it is just downright boring. But it is good.
Because in this sculpting process, God does for us what we can’t do for ourselves: He transforms us. And God doesn’t just change us; He enhances what’s already there. We have parts of ourselves we may not even know about until He nudges us in that direction.
I think God encourages us to take a journey of self-discovery to fulfill the potential He placed in us. We have the freedom to discover our likes and passions and what makes us uniquely us.
Sometimes as Christians we are quick to come to the conclusion that because we are in the process of being sanctified, any form of self-expression needs to be squashed. But one look at the diversity of creation will reveal that’s simply not true. And just the fact that each human has a unique set of fingerprints should give us a clue that God values our individuality.
So what has my journey of self-discovery looked like?
My most significant example I can think of involves my hair. Earlier I referred to a decision I made three and a half years ago to stop chemically straightening my hair. My hair was becoming severely damaged from straightening it, and I felt a desire in my heart for a full head of healthy hair. You need to understand how big a deal this was: For women in the African American community, there is a standard of associating straight hair with beauty while shunning the kinky texture of our natural God-given hair. I had a few family members who were not supportive of my decision, which made it even harder.
But I felt God encouraging me to start my natural hair journey, so I started the process of embracing the hair He had given me. (Please note: I am not saying that it is God’s will for all African American women to ditch their relaxers. This is just what ended up being the best decision for me.) A couple years later, you guys, I am loving my natural hair. It’s not at the length I would like yet but it’s getting there.
That’s just one example of self-discovery as God sculpts me and teaches me to more and more how I’m made in His image.
What about you?
At the end of the day, I hope we all recognize that we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made — and that we take the time to discover all that entails.