Summary: If we want to be worthwhile, trustworthy, respected people, we must be available for life-shaping. That means to downplay disappointment, pick perceptive people, consider consequences, and accept affirmation.
Worthwhile lives are made, not born. No one gets to get be
great just by dumb luck or by the genes they inherited.
Worthwhile people, trustworthy people, respected people are
made. They are formed. They are shaped. Somebody has
to take raw material and shape it into something useful. It
does not just happen on its own.
I’ve learned from watching my artist wife that if you are
painting a landscape or if you are creating a sculpture, you
have to take pains with it. You have to sketch and erase and
sketch again and paint and paint over. And sculpture – that
is a real mystery to me. I cannot fathom how anybody could
shape a sculpture. How can anyone take a hammer and a
chisel and remove unwanted stone to create a sculpture out
of marble? It takes a special genius to do that. Do you know
the story about Michelangelo, who said that he could sense
that in a rough block of marble there was an angel struggling
to get out, and his job was to free that angel? Truly
remarkable! To know that in that rough exterior there was
something beautiful, available for shaping.
But then how much more remarkable it is to know that inside
your rough exterior and mine there is a life available for
shaping! And all it takes is submitting to an artist who can
sense that it is in there and can cut it loose. How much more
wonderful than one of Michelangelo’s stone angels is a life
made superb by the hand of its sculptor! It’s a question of
our being available for life-shaping.
For worthwhile lives are made, not born. Trustworthy people
are hammered out, not just there. And respected people are
shaped, not just accidents. Lives are molded and shaped by
those around us who care enough to sculpt us, and we must
be available for life-shaping.
The boy Samuel was born in a troubled time. The Bible
describes it as one in which the word of the Lord was rare
and visions were not widespread. It was a troubled time.
But Samuel, if you remember, was born to his mother
Hannah and his father Elkanah as the result of Hannah’s
prayer. Hannah cried out to the Lord to give her a child, and
God heard that prayer. Samuel was the result. His grateful
parents dedicated him to the service of God. They loved him
so much they sent him to the temple at Shiloh to be trained
as an aide to the priest Eli. Samuel, there in the temple with
Eli, became, like Michelangelo’s angel, available for life-
I have four simple truths I want you to see in this story. Let
me share them first and then develop each one. We can be
available for life-shaping if we downplay disappointment; if
we pick perceptive people; if we consider the consequences;
and if we accept affirmation.
I am going to repeat those. We can be available for life-
shaping – we can become worthwhile, trustworthy, and
respected people – if we downplay disappointment; if we pick
perceptive people; if we consider consequences; and if we
First, to be available for life-shaping means to downplay
disappointment. It means to discount those times when you
feel as though you are heading down a dead-end street, or
barking up the wrong tree, or whatever other metaphor you
choose. The fact is that it takes time to shape a life, and we
are going to start some things that won’t pay off for a while.
But we have to stick with them and downplay
disappointment, or else we will not be shaped.
Young Samuel heard a voice calling, and he said, “Here I
am”. He said that to Eli, who told Samuel that it was not he
who called. A little later he heard it again, and once again
went to Eli, who once more told Samuel that, no, the priest of
Shiloh had not called. And then a third time, the same thing.
But look! Young Samuel kept on going back and kept on
saying, “Here I am”, despite the disappointment of finding out
that he was mistaken. Samuel didn’t give up. He didn’t
surrender to his disappointment. He knew that he was in the
right place, the house of the Lord. He knew that he was with
the right person, the Lord’s servant. Most of all, he knew his
own mind, and he stayed by the stuff. It would have been
easy on that third time to have said, “I must be hearing
things. I’ll ignore this call. I’ll just give up on this thing.” But
Samuel didn’t grow up. Samuel downplayed his
disappointment, and thus became available for life-shaping.
Some of us, if we don’t get immediate results, are ready to