You’ve probably heard the old joke, how do you carve a marble elephant? Easy, you get a lump of marble and cut off all the bits that don’t look like an elephant.
I did some carving during my training in antique restoration and to a degree the punch line represents good advice, just cut off the pieces that don’t belong. My tutor made it look easy. He could visualise the finished product very early and remove large slices of unnecessary timber with confidence and speed. He saved his concentration for the finer, detailed work required towards the end of the process.
In my earliest attempt I was scared of taking too much away and carved the piece 20% larger than needed. I then gradually brought the overall size down in small increments. Essentially, what I did was completely carve the same object several times in the same block of timber. That’s why my first life size lion’s foot took me 8 hours while the tutor knocked it over in around 30 minutes.
Like many activities I did get better with practice and my fourth attempt “only” took 2 hours. Since then I have developed a better eye for which bits “don’t look like an elephant”, but I don’t think I’ll ever be in the same class (so to speak) as my tutor.
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul writes:
“…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV)
Unlike carving, Christianity isn’t just about removing things from our lives - it isn't just a matter of "stop doing these things”. It is also, and profoundly, a matter of “and now do this”.
Is there anything you need to start doing?