The Michelangelo Effect

One of the most incredible experiences I've had in my life happened many years ago when I had the chance to visit the Auguste Rodin museum in Paris, and to see up close so many of the incredible sculptures that Rodin created throughout his life.  

I've always been amazed at the vision sculptors have---to take an object and then fashion it into something beautiful and expressive.  As I write, I am reminded of the famous quote by Michelangelo: 

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.

In a recent article on the Inc magazine website, the BBC's Christian Jarrett explored the changes that many of us may have had to our personalities during this pandemic.  

Jarrett explains over the past few months, many people have gone through what is known as the "Michelangelo Effect," in terms of development.  This is what he means:  

The forced lockdown, and the dramatic changes in our lifestyle have acted as a sculptor of sorts, chipping away at what was in order to reveal something new underneath.  

According to University of California, Davis, psychologist Wiebke Bleidorn: 

"This time of reflection might lead to increases in 'self-concept clarity' -- the degree to which people have coherent beliefs about themselves and their goals in life," 

In other words for a lot of people these past few months may have served as a wallop "upside their heads" to remind them of what really matters to them, and even could serve as a jolt in their way of thinking about values, ideals and aspirations.  

What does all this mean, practically?  It means that despite the anxieties and uncertainty that COVID has caused, it has had an unintended result for a lot of people--namely, they get the chance to reevaluate their life, their priorities and even the direction of their future.  

We have all been given the opportunity to discern that maybe there were things about our "old way of life" that we are better off leaving behind.  And if we are courageous, we may even discover new ways to see and define some of the old things in new ways.  

This shouldn't be a surprise to us---the new things before us... 

The Hebrew Scriptures are full of references to the "new things" that God is constantly doing in the world around us if we have the eyes to see them.  And in John the Revelator's vision of Christ in the book of Revelation, Christ himself proclaims, "See, I am making all things new."   

Fr. Richard Rohr writes that in times like this we have three options.  

We can take a more conservative approach and continue to try to do the old things with an old mind. We can also take a more progressive approach and try to do new things with an old mind.  

"The Third Way," as he calls it is to have the vision and the faith to transcend the old things, retaining what is helpful and discarding what isn't, in order to do new things with a new mind.  

I'm reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome when he said, 

"Be transformed by the renewing of your mind... Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--God's good, pleasing and perfect will."

As challenging as it may be for us during this time of trial, as followers of Jesus we are called to the Third Way, which is the Way of Christ.  We are called to the renewing of our minds to perceive the new things God is doing, and to join God in that good work. 

May you find strength today to let yourself be sculpted, shaped and formed into the person that God longs for you to be---the person you truly are.  May you be willing to do new things in new ways that give you life and hope.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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