The kids and I recently finished reading a book about Michelangelo. I had read this book before, but something struck me rather profoundly this time around.
Many times, information about the Renaissance seems to highlight the freedom artists had to pursue their craft, thanks to generous patrons. They did not have to work in other jobs simply to feed themselves, thus stifling their creativity. They could just enjoy the freedom to create.
But as I reread Michelangelo’s story, something dawned on me. He wasn’t free. None of the artists were truly free.
Michelangelo’s passion was sculpting. He was happiest when he was alone, chiseling away at a huge slab of marble, working to free the figure he could see inside. Yet this genius of an artist is well remembered for something completely different: a massive painted project. Had he truly been free, Michelangelo would never have picked up a painter’s brush. But he was not free. He was compelled by patrons and popes. He was constrained by the wishes of others. And as his life progressed, he began to feel more enslaved to his talent than delighted by it.
Yet, what would have happened had Michelangelo been able to choose his own path? What if he had never been ordered to paint?
Scripture tells of the freedom of believers in Christ. We are free! What a glorious thought! But, then we see Paul turn around and talk about being a bond-servant of Christ. Hmmm…so which is it? Are we free, or are we enslaved?
I’d like to think we are a bit like Michelangelo. We are free from the bondage that kept us locked away from who God created us to be. Yet we are commanded to turn from following our own desires. We are told to follow the will of Christ instead.
That will is going to take us down unfamiliar paths. It is going to lead us to do things we really do not want to do. It is going to insist that we attempt what we never dreamed ourselves capable of attempting.
In the process, we are going to leave behind gifts beyond anything we could imagine.